Blazing mad at mountain fire attacks ; Officials slam anti-social arsonists

Blazing mad at mountain fire attacks ; Officials slam anti-social arsonists

14 March 2010

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UK —   Fire crews across South Wales were called out to nearly 100 blazes in under 24 hours.

Flames have been tearing through the Valleys since Monday, but the fires are becoming more and more frequent.

South Wales Fire and Rescue Service’s emergency control room received 555 calls between Thursday and Friday afternoons alone, and more than 50 firefighters from several stations attended 96 different incidents. Nearly all the fires are thought to have been deliberately set and have been condemned by fire officers, who say they are needlessly putting lives at risk.

Catherine Gibbons, of the service’s emergency control, said the volume of calls the fire service had received was three times higher than usual.

Some of the biggest blazes have seen 370 acres of grassland across the Bwlch Mountain, and at Tonypandy, Pontypandy, Pontypridd, Ferndale and Treorchy completely destroyed.

Wayne Evans, watch manager at Porth fire station, said: “The people responsible for starting these fires should understand that every second counts.

“They are putting lives in danger because it can take us a few minutes longer to respond to incidents in the towns and villages of South Wales if we are on top of a mountain tackling a grass or forest fire.

“Our main aim is to keep our communities safe, and arson isn’t clever. Fighting unnecessary fires is also putting us as firefighters in needless danger.”

Martin Henderson, head of risk reduction, said the fire service would do everything in its power to catch the people starting the fires.

He said: “Deliberate firesetting is not a victimless act. It’s anti-social behaviour that impacts our communities, wildlife and farm stock. This recent spate of incidents highlights the damaging consequences; in short it’s arson.

“We will look to identify, locate and prosecute those that start these fires.

“Anyone thinking about deliberately setting fire to the mountainside needs to realise that we will pull out all the stops to ensure that they are caught and could face prosecution.”

Most of the fires had been put out last night.

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