Prisoners help tackle fire risk in the countryside

PRISONERS on Teesside have been paying something back into the community by making it more difficult for fires to spread at a local beauty spot.

Six low-risk inmates from Kirklevington Grange Prison near Yarm have spent four weeks in a supervised project to make fire breaks in the Eston Hills.

They have created more than a dozen large fire breaks by clearing areas in the gorse and saplings.

The initiative was a partnership between Cleveland Fire Brigade, the prison, Redcar & Cleveland Council’s Greater Eston Neighbourhood Management Team and Cleveland Police.

Neil Roberts, Cleveland Fire Brigade’s Community Liaison Officer, said: “This is the first time we have undertaken a project like this with local inmates and the Eston Hills were chosen for the project because it is one of the Teesside areas which has been prone to fires – accidental or otherwise – in recent years.

“The gorse bushes play a particular part in that because they burn vigorously, even when wet.

“The inmates worked with their supervisors to remove the gorse bushes along the tree-line and also to cut a number of 3-4 metre wide firebreaks at other strategic points within the gorse.

“We are very pleased with the way the project went and we will be looking to carry out similar schemes in the area next year, including during Easter and the summer holidays.

“It has had a double benefit – it has helped to protect the countryside and has encouraged the prisoners to develop a sense of their responsibility to society.”

Councillor Steven Goldswain, Redcar & Cleveland Council’s Cabinet Member for Community Protection, added: “We are delighted that we could assist Cleveland Fire Brigade and the prison with this community initiative that also benefits the environment.

“They have made a major contribution to preventing fires on the hills and we look forward to working together with them in the future.”