Praise for firefighters after wildfire comes within metres of homes

Fast-thinking firefighters and control room staff have been praised after a rapid response to a wildfire prevented disaster in Sunderland.

Proud officers at Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service (TWFRS) have praised the work of those involved in a response to a fire covering 40,000 square metres on Monday evening.

The Service’s Fire Control first received a call at 2.40pm about a fast-spreading fire in fields near the Downhill Interchange – just metres from the busy A19 motorway.

The first crews were on scene in a matter of minutes and discovered a field well alight just metres from a number of residential houses on Benton Avenue.

Recognising the scale of the fire, a number of further appliances were mobilised to the scene meaning a total of eight appliances, a command unit, drone team and 42 firefighters were deployed.

The quick and substantial response meant the fire, covering the size of approximately six football pitches, was quickly contained and extinguished.

Today (Wednesday) Group Manager Dale Howey, who led the response, has praised the firefighters, fire control team and support staff who delivered a fast and efficient response.

He said: “This was a substantial fire that covered a large area and was quickly spreading across fields, sending large plumes of smoke into the skies.

“It was important that we acted quickly and I saw first-hand the speed at which our Fire Control team, and then our firefighters, worked to surround the incident.

“Our priority was to ensure the fire didn’t spread to the nearby homes, and also didn’t impact on the A19 as we approached rush hour.

“The wind direction was pushing the fire away from the properties and that allowed crews to make significant progress in bringing the fire under control.

“On another day this incident could have ended in very different circumstances and I want to thank everyone involved in the response, and the communities nearby who heeded our advice.”

Group Manager Howey added: “There has been an increase in wildfires in recent years and we will all be aware of the disastrous impact they have had across the country, and internationally, in recent weeks.

“Last summer wildfires caused significant damage to our environment here in Tyne and Wear but they can be prevented by taking some personal responsibility.

“Don’t use disposable barbecues in the countryside, don’t light campfires, don’t carelessly discard cigarettes and make sure you pick up your rubbish, particularly glass bottles that have been known to cause fires.”

Emergency services have since left the scene of the incident but, despite early enquiries, the cause of the fire remains unknown.