IT was sad to see Dunston Staiths burning recently after an arson attack (Echo, May 18). There were also arson attacks there in 2003 and 2018.

The staiths were built in 1893 and, at 526 metres long, and are the largest wooden construction in Europe.

In the 1920s, there were some 30 of these staiths along the River Tyne sending coal to Scandinavia, London and Scotland. They closed in 1980.

In 2010, Britain exported 17m tons of coal but a century earlier we exported 300m tons. 200 acres around the staiths were upgraded for the Gateshead National Garden Festival and the staiths got a £450,000 makeover.

Arson is the largest single cause of fire costing £2.53bn a year. I always wonder what these criminals get out of setting fire to our national treasures like this.

Many years ago a friend of mine who was a deputy headmaster at Shotton Hall School was informed that the school was on fire. When he arrived at the scene, the two culprits were actually there watching their school burn.

I have quite a few mates who are fire fighters and who do a splendid job but it must be heart-breaking to see so much real estate go up in flames knowing that someone has done it in a deliberate act.

Malcolm Rolling, Durham.