Arsonists start huge forest fire in Conwy Valley

Arsonists start huge forest fire in Conwy Valley

26 April 2010

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United Kingdom —    Huge 40ft flames came within metres of destroying homes after reckless arsonists started a series of devastating forest fires on a Conwy Valley hillside.

Firefighters battled to protect houses from the blaze that rapidly engulfed 22 acres of woodland between Betws-y-Coed and Capel Garmon after yobs started up to four separate fires.

Some families had to leave their homes after neighbours reported hearing small explosions before the blazes erupted.

Residents joined the fire fight with homeowner Anthony Moulton even using his garden hose in a desperate bid to keep the flames at bay from his stone cottage.

He told how his property was saved by a 4ft stone wall that provided a vital fire break.

Around 60 fire crew from as far afield as Wrexham raced to the scene to fight the blaze on Saturday afternoon.

Yesterday North Wales Fire Service was still damping down and revealed the fires were deliberately started, and that they were alerted to four seats of fire.

Mr Moulton, who has only been in his property for eight months, said: “I looked out and could see flames leaping up from the woods. I went out and saw smoke and fire coming through the forest.

“It was moving so fast, I used my garden hose to douse the garden but it felt useless against the flames which were leaping above the trees into the air. The fire service arrived and I was told to get anyone out the house and then to wait back from the fire.

“I feared the house was going to go up and had to just wait there nervously and hope it would be okay.

“In the end it was the wall that saved the house, thank God for that wall.”

Another family alerted neighbours to the danger as the blaze ripped through the dry gorse and bracken.

Student nurse Ffion Lloyd Williams, 19, who lives opposite the hillside called the fire service and neighbours after seeing smoke and then flames.

She said: “Within half an hour of seeing the first flames it had gone through the whole side of the mountain, I was shocked at how quickly the fire spread.

“It was very dangerous and it is shocking that this was done deliberately, they put people’s lives in danger.”

Her mum Michelle Fowler said she could feel the heat of the fire in their garden which was more than 100 metres from the blazing hillside.

Retired chartered surveyor Geoff Tyson said: “It looked like the entire mountain was on fire, I have seen fires on the mountain before but never seen them move so quickly and the flames get so high, they were 40ft. The response from the fire service was incredible, there were so many of them here.”

They used the North Wales Police helicopter to monitor the extent of the fire from the air and a minor road from the A470 to Capel Garmon was closed.

Eight fire engines were called at the scene as well as two off road vehicles, the incident command unit from Rhyl and the environmental protection unit from Wrexham. North Wales Police are now investigating.

It comes after the force on Friday warned arsonists officers would be out in the police helicopter looking to spot anyone starting deliberate fires over the weekend.

Fire crews also had to tackle a nine acre blaze close to Manod, Blaenau Ffestiniog, on Saturday evening.

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