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 Teenager warns of the dangers of burning stolen wheelie bins

 25/02/2020

​A teenager is warning of the dangers of burning stolen wheelie bins after she was left with serious burns from molten plastic.  


Hannah Armstrong was out with some friends in woodland in Durham when one of the group decided to set fire to a stolen wheelie bin to keep warm.


The 16-year-old was stood near the bin when a younger boy began jumping on it to set it alight, sending splashes of molten plastic towards the teenager which covered her legs, hair and hand.


The plastic also set fire to the teenager’s jeans and she dropped to the floor, desperately trying to put the flames out.


She was taken to University Hospital of North Durham where she was admitted for emergency surgery. Her shoes, which had become stuck to her feet, had to be cut off, along with her jeans and coat.


She was later transferred to Newcastle’s Royal Victoria Infirmary for further treatment, where she remained for three days.   


Hannah said: “It was terrifying - I was screaming in agony and could see my skin was bubbling. I also think I went into shock as I suddenly felt very cold.
“You never think something like this would happen to you, but it did, and it was petrifying.


“I am having ongoing treatment for my burns, which is really painful. The burns on my leg have caused nerve damage and so may never fully heal. However, I am lucky that my face didn’t get burned.


“What happened to me should be a warning to other people of how dangerous stealing wheelie bins and setting fire to them is – just don’t do it.”


Her mother, Rachel, added: “It is every parent’s worst nightmare. The last thing you expect is your child to come home from being out with her friends with serious injuries.


“I would urge people to just double check where they are storing their wheelie bins, and ensure they are locked away somewhere safe so they cannot be stolen.”


Wheelie bin theft and arson is an issue across the force area, and officers are urging parents to warn their children of the dangers of setting fire to bins.


Durham Neighbourhood Inspector Andrea Arthur said: “If you suspect your child may be involved in this, please intervene and advise them that taking wheelie bins is theft and burning them is arson – both of these crimes will get them a criminal record.


“As this case has shown, setting fire to wheelie bins can be very dangerous and potentially lethal.


“We would also urge residents to keep wheelie bins out of sight and locked away if possible.” 


David Cuthbertson, Arson Reduction and Young People Team Leader from County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service, said: “Our firefighters regularly attend deliberate fires involving refuse. Setting fires deliberately is a criminal offence but it is also extremely dangerous, not only for the individuals involved in setting the fires, but for the emergency services who respond to them.  


“There are actions the local community can take to help. We would encourage residents to make their bins as secure as possible and to only present their wheelie bins on the morning of collection and take them in at the end of the day. If residents have any additional rubbish, we recommend using a local household waste recycling centre to dispose of their rubbish and only use reputable waste removal companies.


“We are determined to tackle deliberate fire crime and would ask anyone with any information to call Firestoppers anonymously on 0800 169 5558 or report online by visiting www.firestoppersreport.co.uk