Summit called to tackle deliberate grass firesPosted
Plans to tackle deliberate grass fires were set out today during a summit of key players who want to prevent a repeat of the recent levels of damage.
The First Minister of Wales Carwyn Jones, Public Services Minister Leighton Andrews, Education & Skills Minister Huw Lewis and Natural Resources Minister Carl Sargeant met with representatives from Gwent Police, South Wales Police, South Wales Fire & Rescue Service, Mid & West Wales Fire & Rescue Service, Natural Resources Wales, relevant Local Authorities and the Met Office to discuss the recent increase in incidents.
First Minister Carwyn Jones said: "Today's summit was an important step in continuing the collaborative work needed to reduce this dangerous, destructive and criminal behaviour.
"While the number of deliberate grass fires is declining in the long term, since the start of April we have seen a significant number across Wales, especially in South Wales.
"I commend the FRS, and individual firefighters, for their response to these outbreaks and welcome the tough stance taken by South Wales Police, but I recognise that the Welsh Government also has an important role to play.
"Today we set out a programme of co-ordinated action across Government, the Fire Service, the Police, schools, Local Authorities and Natural Resources Wales. We formulated a clear and co-ordinated programme of action for the short, medium and long-term.
Public Service Minister Leighton Andrews said: "Communities themselves want to be involved in the fight against these crimes. Already, community groups have come forward to support the Fire Service - groups such as the Bicycle Doctor in Porth, Wildfire FOA in RCT, and the Grass Fire and Mountain Fire Prevention Teams in Caerphilly, RCT and elsewhere. I fully support them, and I know the Fire Service does too. We want to harness their energy and enthusiasm in deterring perpetrators causing fires on our hillsides.
"Today's summit raised important issues. We will continue to work with our partners in this area in establishing what changes are needed in education, better surveillance, tougher sanctions and better land management to break this cultural and seasonal cycle."
NOTES TO EDITORS:
South Wales Police Chief Constable Peter Vaughan said: "We welcome today's summit which will strengthen the opportunity to work with our partners in tackling this problem. This crime affects the lives of everyone in the community and runs the risk of causing significant harm to people's homes and to the safety of anyone living in the vicinity.
"People from a very young age risk spoiling their prospects forever, through one act of stupidity. Arson is a serious crime and we will not hesitate to take robust action against those who act with such disregard for property and life.
"Every day firefighters and police officers are having to put themselves in great danger to ensure the safety of others and to preserve property. For every minute they are having to spend tackling a deliberate grass fire, they aren't as ready as they could be to respond to the many different emergencies that they are called to deal with every day, and the lives of those who need the emergency services most are being put at serious risk."
Police and Crime Commissioner Alun Michael said: "Starting fires is a crime which has caused consternation in the communities directly affected. I admire the way that the Fire Service and South Wales Police have worked together to respond to this year's problems. It is crucial that all of us - education, local authorities, police and fire - continue to work together to ensure those setting fires understand the consequences and to support our communities in dealing with this threat."
Chief Fire Officer for South Wales Fire and Rescue Service Huw Jakeway said: "As a Service, we recognise the impact deliberate grass fires have on the communities of South Wales and we continue to direct our resources to prevent these fires occurring in the first place. This type of incident can no longer be seen as "risk free fun" and the Service is committed to working with our communities to change this culture through engaging hearts and minds.
"We are urging our communities to think about the consequences of deliberate fire setting and the impact on the countryside and wildlife, as well as the risks to our Firefighters and their safety when tackling these incidents. Deliberate grass fires are an act of arson, which is a serious crime and we work closely with both Police Services to bring those responsible to justice."