With the warm, sunny and dry weather we have recently been experiencing and with the lockdown rules starting to be relaxed in Wales, the message has changed from “stay home” to “stay local, which seems like a perfect opportunity to start to enjoy the wonderful countryside and beaches that we have to offer. However, since the announcement was made on Friday 29th May, Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service have attended 98 grass fires that have either been started deliberately or were accidental.
Recognising the impact that these fires are having on our communities, MAWW FRS are working in partnership with the four Local Authorities, Dyfed Powys Police, Natural Resource Wales and Cadw in a bid to tackle this issue and to protect the historic environment, natural habitat and surrounding countryside.
During the summer, grass and mountains can become very dry, which means if you deliberately or accidentally start a fire outdoors it will spread very quickly, destroying everything in its path. The damage to the surrounding landscape and the effect on historic features, habitats and wildlife largely goes unrecognised.
Huwel Manley, Land and Assets Operations Manager for South West Wales for NRW commented:
“With the climate and nature emergencies that we are all facing, wildfires are the last thing the Welsh landscape needs. The wildfires we have seen over the prolonged dry spell of weather have caused significant damage to NRW managed forestry and Sites of Special Scientific Interest and can have a devastating effect on wildlife and the local environment.
“NRW works closely with the fire and rescue service, the police and other partners through Operation Dawns Glaw to help prevent fires. When fires burn on land that we manage, we support the Fire and Rescue service in any way we can, offering local knowledge and practical support to help them fight the fires effectively.”
We are urging members of the public to take precautions and to follow the safety advice below.
- Extinguish cigarettes and other smoking materials properly – don’t throw them out of car windows.
- Only use barbeques in suitable and safe areas, never leave them unattended and always extinguish them properly.
- Don’t start fires in the countryside – dry vegetation means fires will spread quickly and easily.
- Make sure your BBQ is in good working order before you use it.
- Make sure let your BBQ cool down after use, before you dispose or move it.
- Never start open fires in the countryside.
Richie Vaughan-Williams, Arson Reduction Manager, Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service, said:
“Deliberately setting fires is illegal and irresponsible. Operationally, wildfires often require multiple crews working hard together, sharing equipment and on difficult terrain. This is a concern when we are trying to operate distancing procedures as much as possible to protect those crews. We would like to appeal to you to help us and other essential services in preventing these incidents from occurring.”
Ellen ap Gwynn, Leader of Ceredigion County Council said:
“Fires can cause havoc and destroy lives. Each and every one of us has a responsibility to be mindful of the people, animals, natural habitats and buildings that are around us. We thank our residents who are keeping our communities strong and resilient during these challenging times by taking the correct precautions and following safety advice regarding fires and bbq’s.”
Gwilym Hughes, head of Wales’ historic environment service, Cadw, said:
“Fire can cause significant damage to historic buildings and below ground archaeology. When the evidence of our past is damaged it is gone forever. Although Cadw monuments are currently closed to visitors, the majority of Wales’ historical sites are open access and vulnerable. In some cases they have been around for thousands of years – please help us ensure they continue to survive.”
Pembrokeshire County Council Leader, Councillor David Simpson said:
“Wildfires are extremely dangerous and can spread quickly, having a devastating effect on wildlife and the environment – they put lives in danger and cause significant damage to property. They are unacceptable at any time, but especially during the Covid-19 lockdown when emergency service resources are critical in protecting the public. In addition, I would like to thank the communities of Pembrokeshire for continuing to demonstrate responsibility during the recent warm weather by following safety advice regarding fires and BBQ’s.”
Dyfed-Powys Police Acting Inspector, Rhys Jones said:
“Deliberately setting fires is a serious crime, and we work very closely with our partners to tackle the issue. Not only do these fires pose a significant risk to the safety of our communities, but we see far too often the destruction of nationally important wildlife and habitat as a consequence also. These illegal fires are entirely avoidable and put lives and property at risk. They are unpredictable and can spread quickly. We know that the smoke from fires can really impact upon local communities, with smoke entering their houses for hours at a time and aggravating pre-existing respiratory health conditions such as asthma, at a time when we should be doing all we can to keep people healthy and protect our NHS.
“In partnership with the Arson Reduction Team we thoroughly investigate incidents of deliberate fires to identify those people responsible, and we ask that anyone with any information about such incidents contacts police either online at: http://bit.ly/DPPReportOnline, by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org, or by calling 101. If you are deaf, hard of hearing, or speech impaired text the non-emergency number on 07811 311 908. You can also give information anonymously to Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.”
We need to work together to support our Communities during the COVID 19 epidemic, to ensure the safety of our family and friends, neighbours, members of the public and our Emergency Services. Deliberate grass fires reduce air quality as well as stretch valuable emergency services away from lifesaving incidents, so we appealing to everyone to help us to help them at this difficult time.