United Kingdom — A PROJECT aiming to show youngsters the damage grass fires in the Rhymney Valley can cause is hoping to build on previous success.
Project Bernie delivers diversionary activities, area patrols, a media campaign and information to young people in and around the Bargoed area to raise awareness of the damage deliberate grass fires can cause.
From Monday, March 25, Caerphilly Youth Services, South Wales Fire and Rescue Service and the Welsh Rugby Union will be hosting an extensive two-week programme of activities.
Youngsters will be able to enjoy workshops including theatrical make-up, DJ and MC skills and jewellery making, and will also have the opportunity to experience the life of a firefighter for a day.
With a climbing wall, X Box tournaments and rugby camps organised by the Welsh Rugby Union, there will be plenty on offer to keep youngsters occupied, entertained and educated throughout the Easter period.
Caerphilly Partnership Sergeant Rob Davies said: Focusing our efforts to reduce the damage caused by the deliberate setting of grass fires in our communities is a priority for us at this time of the year. Police and partners will be patrolling in the grass land areas, so dont be surprised to see uniformed officers in areas where you would not perhaps expect them to be.
The setting of deliberate fires is a crime and destroys the environment in which we live. Project Bernie sends the message that there are many other constructive things to do to entertain yourself, as opposed to destroying your own environment. Please remember, we will enforce the law against anyone setting deliberate, destructive fires in our community.
A patrol in Bargoed on Sunday, following a grass fire near the town centre, saw five youths stopped and questioned.
One youth was found to be in possession of a lighter and subsequently the group admitted their part in starting the fire. Each individual received an Anti-Social Behaviour Order referral and will be enrolled on the South Wales Fire and Rescue Service Young Fire Setters Programme as an intervention measure.
Garry Davies, Head of Fire Crime Unit, South Wales Fire and Rescue Service, and leading on Project Bernie, said: Project Bernie will deliver many messages, initiatives and diversionary activities throughout the Easter Holidays, with the aim of reducing deliberate grass fires in local communities.
The number of incidents involving deliberate fires fell substantially by 68% in the Bargoed area last year, reducing from 53 in 2011 to 17 in 2012.
During the two weeks prior to school term Easter holidays in 2012, the Bargoed and Aberbargoed areas, which have historically experienced high levels of incidents, saw a 15% decrease while each of the other participating local authorities experienced an increase.