Wales forest fires – lessons to be learned from Europe

Wales forest fires – lessons to be learned from Europe

08 May 2011

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United Kingdom: Experts say lessons should be learned in Wales from the way forest fires are tackled in Europe.

It comes after Wales’ three fire and rescue services were “stretched” for several days earlier this week, dealing with hundreds of grass fires.

No further grass or mountain fires are being reported in Wales on Saturday following overnight rain.

Forestry Commission Wales is finalising a report detailing control measures developed in more drier countries.

It says the hottest April on record caused “vast areas of parched, tinder-dry land to go up in flames”.

Earlier this week, the fire service said they hoped to see prosecutions after tackling about 300 grass and gorse fires since Sunday, many started deliberately.

One of the biggest fires has wiped out important wildlife habitat in the Brecon Beacons National Park.

Park managers said 2,000 acres, along with hundreds of eggs from nesting birds, had been destroyed in the worst grass fire for 30 years in the Beacons between Trapp, Brynamman and Llandeilo.

“We have well established procedures in place to contain wildfires in Wales,” said Mike Over from Forestry Commission Wales’ FUTUREforest project.

“Across Europe foresters have a wealth of experience of dealing with these devastating fires and, through FUTUREforest, we plan to share this with our colleagues in Wales.”

In Catalonia, Spain, the state forest department maps fires, including where they start, the wind direction that spreads them and the topography.

They then carry out a programme of felling and thinning to create “corridors” to control the fires – which “effectively put themselves out as they run out of fuel”.

Meanwhile, in Brandenburg the German forest service has introduced new technology and an automatic warning system which recognises smoke clouds at a distance of 12 miles (20K) away.

And in Bulgaria, local volunteers, forest workers and emergency services have been set up by the state, building co-ordinated teams that co-operate closely together to tackle fires earlier.

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