Firefighters across South Wales have been mobilised to tackle the large number of grass fires that have taken place in the South Wales valleys over the last few days.The fires, many of which are believed to have been started deliberately, were the latest in a spate of similar events that have taken place in the advent of the warmer, drier weather.  

Martin Henderson, Head of Risk Reduction, South Wales Fire and Rescue Service condemned deliberate grass fire setting:"South Wales Fire and Rescue Service is joining with the police and its other partners to crack down on those who deliberately set fires.  Anyone thinking about deliberately setting fire to the mountainside needs to realise that we will pull out all the stops to ensure that they are caught and could face prosecution".   

He continued: "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 as it can take us a few minutes longer to respond to incidents in the towns and villages of South Wales if we are on top of a mountain tackling a forest fire. 

"Where land owners wish to undertake controlled burning of open land as part of their own land management, a code of practice exists and we are keen to work with landowners beforehand to ensure that we are ware that the controlled burning will be taking place and can provide landowners with safety advice and guidance". 

As part of their commitment to tackle these fires and improve operational response, SWFRS told FIRE that they will also be undertaking Operation Wildfire and Project Bernie.   

Andrew Thomas, Head of Operational Risk Management and leading on the wildfire project said "Over the past twelve months South Wales Fire and Rescue Service has made significant progress to improve its operational response to wildfires. The service has trialled and purchased specialist equipment and is currently delivering training for wildfire firefighting to improve operational effectiveness in collaboration with the Forestry Commission Wales. 

Dave Ansell, Social Marketing (Bernie) Project Manager, South Wales Fire and Rescue Service said: "The social marketing (Bernie) approach aims to tackle deliberate grass fires by creating a change in attitudes and behaviour and gaining a through understanding of the target audience.  By getting a better understanding of the target audience this enables us is to deliver a bespoke intervention to a specific problem - this is where the 'Bernie' project comes in. 

"Through the 'Bernie' project, many messages, initiatives and diversionary activities that have the aim of reducing deliberate grass fires in local communities will take place throughout the Easter holidays. These will messages and activities will be in the unitary authorities that historically suffer from the highest number of deliberate grass and mountain fires - Rhondda Cynon Taf, Caerphilly, Merthyr and Bridgend" 

Chairman, South Wales Fire and Rescue Service, Cllr Anthony Ernestsaid "These 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." 


Posted: 10.20am, 28.03.11