Caerphilly grass fires cost taxpayers £140,000

Caerphilly grass fires cost taxpayers £140,000

01 May 2014

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UK — Deliberate grass fires have cost taxpayers more than £140,000 in just two months – enough to pay nearly seven trainee firefighters’ yearly salary.

South Wales Fire and Rescue Service (SWFRS) has been called to 72 deliberate grass fires in Caerphilly County Borough since March 1.

The average cost of a call-out is £1,970, meaning the total bill could exceed £141,840.

Dewi Jones, Head of Fire Crime at SWFRS, condemned grass fire arson.

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

“The people responsible for starting these fires need to understand that the fires severely damage much of the countryside surrounding their communities and they are putting lives in danger.”

Cllr Tudor Davies, Chairman of the South Wales Fire Authority, added: “Deliberate grass fires are dangerous and unpredictable, and can quickly spread out of control.

“Firefighters battle against them under arduous conditions, with fires spreading across difficult and sometimes inaccessible terrain – they must stop.”

Gwent Police were unable to provide the number of arrests relating to deliberate grass fires since March, but said officers investigate every incident with the aim of prosecuting offenders.

A spokesman said: “It goes without saying that this activity is not only extremely dangerous and a criminal offence, it also places considerable pressures on emergency services which could possibly prevent them from attending other life threatening incidents.”

SWFRS launched a triple initiative to combat grass fires including Operation Wildfire, Project Bernie and Controlled Burning.

Project Bernie aimed to reduce grass fires during the Easter holiday by delivering messages, diversionary tactics and initiatives across Caerphilly County Borough.

The service also warned of bonfires getting out of control and spreading across dry ground.

There have also been warnings that grass fires can affect wildlife and local tourism.

Peter Cloke, Forest District Manager for Natural Resources Wales, said: “Wild fires can have serious repercussions for local communities, wildlife and protected sites.

“They cause a blight on our countryside, making it less attractive for local people to visit, which can impact on tourism and affect the local economy.”

• Firefighters in Caerphilly County Borough are set to strike as part of UK-wide industrial action over a pension dispute.

The Fire Brigade Union (FBU) argues that firefighters in their late 50s face being sacked or seeing their pension reduced by half because of changes to the retirement age.

Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary, said the UK Government was still burying its head in the sand.

He said: “Nevertheless, we remain totally committed to resolving the dispute through negotiation, and are ready to meet to consider a workable proposal as soon as possible.”

Firefighters will strike on Friday May 2 between noon and 5pm, Saturday May 3 between 2pm and 2am and again on Sunday May 4, between 10am and 3pm.

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