A COUNCIL is joining forces with the fire brigade to prevent the number of rubbish fires in Darlington from getting out of control

As part of the new initiative, firefighters will contact the authority when they spot potential fire risks during their rounds.

A hotline has also been set up with the aim of encouraging members of the public to report incidents.

This joint approach is being taken in an attempt to reduce the number of calls made to the fire brigade to deal with blazes caused by accumulated piles of rubbish left in back yards and empty properties, or fly tipping.

In the past 12 months, the council has received hundreds of calls about abandoned vehicles, which also present a major fire risk.

Both the fire brigade and the council hope that removing the source of the fire risk will reduce the number of calls made to the emergency services.

The council has various powers to deal with fly-tipping and early notification to the environmental health section may help enforcement officers to take action to prevent fires or other problems.

Darlington fire station commander, assistant divisional officer Alan Wray, said: "Last year, firefighters attended more than 600 fires involving rubbish in the Darlington area, many of which could have been prevented if immediate action was available to remove it.

"This joint initiative to provide a single point of contact in the form of a hotline to Darlington Borough Council will make all the difference.

"Local residents will enjoy a cleaner town and firefighters will be able to concentrate on their prime functions of saving life and protecting property, whilst promoting community fire safety."

Councillor Stephen Harker, cabinet member for community protection, said: "Rubbish accumulation and fly-tipping are major hazards for the community, and it is important that we do everything we can to reduce risks to the public.

"I am confident that having a single contact point will go some way to combating this problem."

In a recent incident, firefighters were called to deal with 500 tyres which had been dumped beside a railway line.

Members of the public can telephone the hotline on (01325) 388582.