Pupils help fire crews tackle village's problem with arson
By Martin Paul - Senior Reporter
SCHOOL children have come up with their own creative campaign to tackle arson in their village.
West Auckland is considered a priority spot for County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service because of the number of fires.
In an innovative scheme, the fire service has teamed up with Believe Housing to start a pilot six-week project at Oakley Cross Primary School, where, pupils were told about the problem so that they could come up with a solution.
The fire service’s arson reduction and young people co-ordinator, Cheryl Stirk, said the aim was for the children to come up with ideas for a campaign so they could take it out to other schools in the village and surrounding areas.
Fire investigator Lee Aspry, who was part of the project, added: “It is to bring that peer to peer message across so it is set in their minds every day that setting fires is the wrong thing to do.”
Mr Aspry brought his investigator dogs Archie and Woody to the school to show the children how they are used to find out what type of flammable fluids have been used in an arson incident and how they can follow that scent back to the arsonist.
The project was aimed at the school’s year six pupils who were all made “Phoenix Fire Champions”, complete with their own hoody uniforms and name badges.
The children, along with their teacher Craig Robinson, came up with a multi-media campaign that combined video with a live performance to explain the dangers of starting fires. They presented it to the school during a special assembly.
Ms Stirk said: “I had no idea what to expect from the children’s performance today, but I was blown away with the amount of content they covered in relation to the dangers and consequences of deliberate fire setting. The children showed great confidence, executing the delivery perfectly to their peers which is exactly what we wanted them to do.
“We hope that the children can share their safety messages beyond the school hall to other children and the wider community. Well done to Phoenix Fire Champions.”
The children will take their performance to nearby Copeland Road Primary School and St Helen Auckland Primary School.
Oakley Cross was one of only three schools across the county to be selected for the project. Amanda Fulcher, from Believe Housing, said: “The performance by the children at Oakley Cross was fantastic. They have all risen to the challenge and really taken ownership of the Phoenix Fire Champions project.
“It’s all been great fun and I’m so proud of everyone who’s taken part. But, there are very serious messages behind all of the activities about the risks and consequences of starting deliberate fires.
“We’ve been working closely with County Durham Fire and Rescue Service in West Auckland, Shotton Colliery and Esh Winning to reduce the number of deliberate fires through the Phoenix Fire Champions project.”
“Engaging with young people before they get caught up in any fire related antisocial behaviour is a key part of that work.”
People can visit believehousing.co.uk for more information.