Prosecution plans after 300 Welsh holiday grass fires

Prosecution plans after 300 Welsh holiday grass fires

04 May 2011

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UK — Firefighters in Wales say they hope to see prosecutions after tackling about 300 grass and gorse fires since 1 May, many started deliberately.

South Wales Fire and Rescue Service says it hopes there would be legal action “in the near future”.

One fire officer said there were reports of children as young as seven and men in their 70s setting fires.

On Wednesday four crews in north Wales were fighting a large gorse fire at Moel-y-Gest near Porthmadog, Gwynedd.

Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service, which dealt with 111 incidents, said it would work closely with police to try to secure prosecutions where fires had been started on purpose.

The assistant county commander for Swansea, Gary Williams, said the dry weather coupled with strong winds had been a problem for the service.

“Such incidents put unnecessary additional pressure on our crews and resources, as vehicles and crews are occupied dealing with grass fires,” he added.

“We are reminding the public that fire-setting is a serious crime, as well as being very dangerous indeed.”

North Wales crews were called to 16 large blazes including a major fire near Pwllheli, Gwynedd.

On Wednesday crews from Porthmadog, Blaenau Ffestiniog, Caernarfon and Pwhelli were fighting the fire at Moel-y-Gest which the service said had a 100 metre (109 yard) long fire front.

They also tackled two gorse fires, covering around 13 acres, near Conwy on Tuesday night and in the early hours of Wednesday morning.

One blaze was at Llechwedd the other near Henryd, and both were started deliberately.

South Wales Fire and Rescue Service said it had dealt with more than 150 fires since 1 May, including two that had burned for over 24 hours.

Crews from Treorchy, Ferndale, Aberdare and Tonypandy fought a fire at over 400 hectares at Treherbert.

They were first called there on Monday and were back again on Tuesday.

They also had to return to a fire at Wattsville in Caerphilly county which first took hold on Monday and flared again on Tuesday.

Station officer Dave Ansell said: “Over 95% of these are started deliberately.

“The problem we’ve had this weekend is as well as the dry conditions we’ve had one of the warmest Aprils on record.

“Everything is tinder dry and over the last few days we’ve had very very strong winds which makes it very difficult.”

He said they had received reports of children as young as seven and men in their 70s setting fires.

“Some of the crews are working 24 to 48 hours with very little rest. It’s taking our life saving resources away from where they are required.”

Another officer, Andrew Thomas, said: “Since I have been dealing with wild fires I have never ever known of a prosecution for deliberate wild fire-setting and I think if there are no consequences of peoples’ actions then why should they not stop doing it?

“Hopefully, with working with the police and the local authorities we will in the near future see a prosecution for deliberate wild fire setting.”

Mr Thomas said there was evidence wild fire-setting had been a “cultural thing”, and services were working to try and educate school children, although that itself diverted manpower away from firefighting.

He said outbreaks of fires over the Easter break were not unusual, but the dry weather and strong winds had produced unique conditions.

He added: “Every fire and rescue service in Wales has been stretched due to these unique conditions.”

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