Holiday gorse fires ‘devastating’

Holiday gorse fires ‘devastating’

10 April 2007

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Wales, UK — Fire crews across Wales say the bank holiday weekend was one of the worst they have ever experienced for grass, gorse and forest fires.

Services were tackling new blazes on Tuesday after being called out to more than 500 fires over the holiday period.

South Wales Fire and Rescue Service said it received more than 1,500 calls over grass and bracken fires with the vast majority started deliberately.

Fire crews said they drained resources and devastated the environment.

They have also called on the public to be more careful in the countryside.

On Tuesday, fire crews in mid and south Wales were once again tackling grass fires.

The South Wales Fire and Rescue service was tackling a large fire on top of Aberdare mountain.

Firefighters positioned themselves between the fire and a gas installation on the mountain and was being aided by two helicopters – one from the police and another from the Forestry Commission.

There was a large concentration of gorse fires on Monday in the Rhondda area and a Forestry Commission helicopter was used to drop water on the flames.

South Wales Fire Service said many of the fires they tackled over the weekend were started deliberately.

Mid and West Wales Fire Service said they received 223 call outs to attend grass fires over the bank holiday weekend.

North Wales Fire and Rescue Service attended 96 gorse and forest fires over the last fewdays.

Andrew Francis, of the Mid and West Wales Fire Service, said its control room had taken 984 calls over the Easter weekend and that 216 of these were for grass fires.

He called for members of the public to be more careful in the countryside to prevent accidental fires from starting.

“Be very careful how you light barbecues, dispose of cigarettes and the unauthorised use of motor vehicles can also be a problem in the countryside,” he said.

Mike McCabe of the Countryside Council for Wales said the fires had short and long term consequences for wildlife and habitats.

“Obviously, wildlife such as reptiles, lizards and birds looking to nest at this time can be killed in the fires but the long-term effects can be devastating because the habitat can change,” he said.

“Over time we may completely lose the valuable heath lands we have in the valleys.”

In north Wales, 11 fire crews were called to tackle fires at Talsarnau and Maentwrog in Gwynedd over the weekend.

The blaze at Talsarnau, which spread to a nearby nature reserve, was brought under control after six hours on Sunday.

The second blaze, at Tan y Bwlch in Maentwrog, reignited several times over the weekend and again on Monday.

The largest gorse fire tackled by Mid and West Wales Fire Service was at Cellan near Lampeter where strong winds fanned the flames.

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