Wales, UK — An operation aimed at reducing the number of grass fires in the Rhondda valleys, south Wales over the Easter period is due to be launched.
The fire service, police force, Forestry Commission and Rhondda Cynon Taf (RCT) council are pooling resources to carry out Operation Phoenix.
South Wales Fire and Rescue Service received 5,500 calls in just 10 days in April 2007.
The agencies will begin patrolling the mountainside in the next few weeks.
South Wales Fire Service was called out to 2,707 grass fires between the start of April until 28 July in 2007.
The Rhondda Cynon Taff area was one of the worst hit in 2007, with more than half the total number of deliberately-set grass and mountain fires in south Wales.
Operation Phoenix will see Forestry Commission vehicles, police off-road motorcycles, an Asbo enforcement team and a closed circuit television (CCTV) unit patrol mountainsides to look out for would-be arsonists.
“One day, someone is going to lose their lives – and that might even be one of our own firefighters”
Steve Doel, station manager at Tonypandy fire station
The joint partnership was set up as part of the organisation’s Wild Fire Project – a multi-pronged approach to the problem, including education, enforcement, operational tactics, training and partnership working.
“We believe that Rhondda Cynon Taff suffers the highest number of grass fires in the UK”, said Steve Doel, station manager at Tonypandy fire station.
“The only way to tackle this recurring problem is a concerted effort by all interested agencies – and we are extremely fortunate that the issue has been fully embraced by these partners.
“People just don’t seem to grasp how serious the issue of grass fires is. Grass and mountain fires are unpredictable and can spiral out of control within minutes.
“One day, someone is going to lose their lives – and that might even be one of our own firefighters.”
Mr Doel also highlighted the costs to the taxpayer of sending fire crews to tackle grass and mountain fires.
“It also means that firefighters could be diverted from attending a real emergency – someone trapped in a house fire or a crashed car,” he said.
“These people are endangering their own lives as well as the lives and property of others in the community”
Insp Mike Jones, South Wales Police
“That’s not to mention the complete destruction of the environment and the deterrent to inward investment in this beautiful part of the world.”
Insp Mike Jones, of the South Wales Police, said he believed pooling the resources of all the agencies involved would have positive results.
“Arson is a crime, and we will arrest and prosecute anyone we catch lighting these fires”, he said.
“These people are endangering their own lives as well as the lives and property of others in the community.
“Deliberate fire setters could be subject to prosecution under various laws including the destruction of the environment and wildlife, the disturbance of protected species and damage to property.”