Fighting wildfire crime from the air

With nearly 2000 acres of upland common and peat bog severely damaged by a fire in what National Park Wardens are calling the worst heath land fire in thirty years, thermal image photographs will be able to assist Wardens in the recovery process and assess whether there is any peat bog still burning underneath the soil.

Inspector Ian Richards, from Dyfed Powys Police said it was important for all Local Authorities to join forces and battle wildfires and wildlife crime together.  “It’s critical that we work together in the coming months to try and deter wildfire crime in this beautiful area.  We have faced some major fires in the last few months and we are still investigating how they might have been caused. Our joint work is imperative not only for the safety of our residents and visitors but also for the wildlife that inhabits this area.  We hope that our assistance will help the National Park in their efforts to return this damaged environment back to its former glory.”

John Cook, Chief Executive of Bannau Brycheiniog National Park Authority said that fighting fires is a multipartnership effort.  At the most recent fire, near Trap, Llandeilo, soldiers from the Infantry Battleschool Wales were called in to help tackle the blaze because of its logistically challenging terrain.

He said:  “We are facing some challenging summer months ahead so the cooperation and assistance of organisations like Dyfed Powys Police Authority is especially warranted.  We know from firsthand experience that wildfires can get out of control very quickly and it takes up so many resources of all those involved.  To have the support of Dyfed Powys Police to help fight these wildfire crimes, monitor their ecological impact and assist in the recovery process is vital.  With their help we will continue to monitor  and investigate these remote sites over the next few months.

“Thermal image photographs of the peat bog will help us understand the extent of the damage and will also put us in good stead to measure what those long term effects will be.  What we do know is that it has undone years of careful management and it will take years to recover.  Our Wardens will continue to issue fire warnings throughout the coming weeks and we are urging people to remain vigilant and act responsibly during the warm, dry weather.”

People are advised not to light BBQs and campfires in open countryside and not to release or light any Chinese lanterns, and to think responsibly about how to dispose of cigarette butts, lighters, glass bottles and matches.   If anyone does see a fire or someone acting irresponsibly, they should report it quickly to the fire service by phoning 999 so that they can take appropriate action.

The Fire Severity Index in the Bannau Brycheiniog National Park continues to remain at ‘ High’ and ‘Exceptional’.



Last month, Wardens from Bannau Brycheiniog National Park Authority and the Mid Wales and West Fire battled a catastrophic fire between Trap, Brynamman and Llandeilo for more than five days, which saw an area of more than 2000 acres of peat bog and one of the most important SSSI sites in the National Park suffer severe damage.  Military assistance was requested to help tackle the blaze.

Although the fire did not threaten any properties it was understood to be the worst heath land fire Wardens had seen in more than thirty years.  The site was recognised as one of the most pristine and priority habitats in the National Park.   The fire burned with such intensity that it reached down into carbon-rich peat bog so the long term effects of this are at this stage immeasurable – it could very well take years to recover.  When peat bog is damaged in this way it reduces its capacity to hold water, releases carbon and increases surface water runoff, flood risk and causes erosion problems in the future.  Hundreds of eggs from ground-nesting birds like skylarks, meadow pipit, red grouse, hen harriers and merlins were found burnt at the site.

Pictures:  Copyright of Bannau Brycheiniog National Park Authority