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Fire Service sees increase in deliberate grass fires

FIRE Services across Wales have been faced with an increase in deliberate grass fires this April caused by a mixture of anti-social behaviour, householders burning refuse waste and a number of farmers and landowners burning grassland outside the permitted winter burn dates.

Operation Dawns Glaw is an all-Wales multi-agency taskforce supported by a range of partners whose aim is to reduce the uncontrolled environmental destruction and potential threat to lives and property arising from deliberately set grass fires.

Mydrian Harries, Corporate Head of Prevention and Protection for Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service and Task Force Lead for Operation Dawns Glaw said, “It has become very clear to the Task Force over the last few weeks that there is a very small minority of children, young people and adults determined to set fire to land within our Communities placing everyone at risk. Our Emergency Services have worked extremely hard to both respond and put out these fires as quickly as possible under the current lockdown situation. This is a wholly unnecessary use of our emergency services during this difficult time”.

While the public might assume these deliberate fires are all caused by children and young people, some will have been caused by adults. A number of fires have also occurred on farmland, destroying habitats for ground nesting birds and other wildlife. Mr Harries added “It is unacceptable for a small minority of landowners and land managers to continue starting grass fires deliberately outside the legal dates and against all the advice they are provided. The work of the Task Force includes recording all locations where these deliberate grass fires occur and reporting them to the Welsh Government Cross Compliance department and Police”.

Robin Whittle, Cross-Compliance Department, Welsh Government said “The Burn date deadline of the 31st March 2020 is there for a reason and that is to protect and safeguard our natural environment. Burning outside of this date without a permit is a breach of Cross Compliance and could result in payments including Basic Payment Scheme or Rural Development land based schemes (e.g. Glastir) being reduced, recovered or withheld. I will be working closely with the Task Force and I would urge the farming community to respect this requirement and do their part in keeping our Communities safe”.

Commenting on identifying the causes of deliberate fires, Mr Harries said “As a Task Force, we would wish to thank the public for supplying details to the Police, Fire Service and Crimestoppers which are helping us to identify the perpetrators of these deliberate grass fires. We recognise that this information is likely to be known within Communties and I would ask anyone to pass on whatever information they have, however small to us. If you see anything suspicious, call the Police or Crimestoppers, it could make all the difference”.

Ella Rabaiotti, National Manager for Crimestoppers in Wales said: “Help keep our communities safe. If you have any information on who’s responsible for deliberate fires, you can give information to the independent charity Crimestoppers 100% anonymously on 0800 555 111 or through our anonymous online form at Crimestoppers-uk.org. We are only interested in what you know – not who you are. We also offer cash rewards of up to £1000 if the information you give us leads to the arrest and charge of the person or people responsible. Speak up and stay safe.”

Setting illegal grass fires is a serious crime and could leave you with a Criminal Record. If you see anyone setting fires, please call the Police on 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

To find out more about Operation Dawns Glaw, the Joint Arson Group and the Wales Arson Reduction Strategy, please visit your local Fire and Rescue Service’s website.

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