GARDEN fires have more than doubled since the coronavirus lockdown, prompting fire brigade chiefs to issue a public safety warning.

Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service responded to 82 fires caused by controlled burning between March 23 and April 7, compared to 38 in the same period last year.

Assistant Chief Fire Officer Peter Heath said: “Crews are increasingly responding to garden fires, often ‘bonfires’ that have spread to fences, or other materials or where the fire contains items causing smoke hazardous to human health.

"These fires are a significant source of air pollution and the smoke can include poisonous gases, such as carbon monoxide.

"Our advice is very straightforward and clear – don’t burn household waste, plastics, rubber or any other material, which could cause harmful smoke.”

The Northern Echo:

The service has also dealt with a number of deliberate secondary fires, often set by young people who have been seen running away from fires in wood and waste land.

Mr Heath said: "We know it’s a very difficult time for many families – and we are very thankful to those who have ensured their children are abiding by lockdown and social distancing.

"However, we’d like to reach out to all parents and carers to ask them to talk to the younger members of the family on the importance of staying at home.

"The fact that our crews are attending to deliberate fires, at any time, let alone a time when everyone should be at home, is very hard to understand.

"Our crews are often attending fires deep in woodland, tying up an appliance which could be needed for a life-risk incident. It also risks bringing our firefighters into unnecessary contact with others at a time when social distancing is vital to limiting the spread of the coronavirus.

"We are also concerned that some younger people are continuing to meet up with friends and could be spreading or catching the coronavirus.

"We know that young people can have a tendency to believe themselves to be invincible, but very sadly, the coronavirus is no respecter of age.”