Woodland blaze sparks fly-camping warning

A POLICE chief has warned about the dangers of fly-camping after a fire spread across woodlands in Rothbury.

Police and fire crews were called to Addycombe Woods at the back of Hillside Road after reports of a small fire.

A crew from Rothbury attended first but soon found that back-up was needed and units from Alnwick and Pegswood were called to the scene, as well as two from Amble and Wooler.

Firefighters spent around five hours extinguishing the fire, using backpacks and beaters. The blaze was in an area 30metres by 18metres.

Alnwick Neighbourhood police Inspector Sue Peart said: “Operation Awning is running from now until the end of summer and it is aimed at dealing with the anti-social behaviour that comes from fly-camping and also to try to prevent incidents such as this (the fire) where campers come up to the area.

“Often they have a drink, a barbecue or bonfire and they don’t extinguish the fire properly. In our area, where we have got so much forest, heather and peat, that can burn for days.

“We are working on putting out leaflets that welcome people to the area but also give them advice in relation to where they can camp lawfully and also, if they have bonfires, how to extinguish them.”

Alex Bennett, acting chief fire officer for Northumberland Fire and Rescue Service, said: “We would ask everyone spending time in Northumberland’s open spaces and woodland to be aware of the risks that fires started deliberately or accidentally can pose to wildlife, the countryside as well as other people and property in the area.

“Fires such as these can spread quickly and can be difficult to control and extinguish.”

He added: “Northumberland Fire and Rescue Service is working with Northumbria Police to ensure that those people who behave irresponsibly or who deliberately set fires such as this are held to account.”