Working together to protect the Welsh countryside from wildfires
Every year in Wales, fire is responsible for damaging thousands of hectares of countryside, open space and wildlife habitats.
The three fire and rescue service in Wales want to continue to work with local communities, farmers and landowners to protect our precious Welsh landscape.
In North Wales, Tim Owen, Partnerships and Communities Manager East Area and Wildfire lead for North Wales Fire and Rescue Service, explains:
“Wildfires tie up our resources which could be needed at another emergency – and we’ve seen how wildfires put lives at risk, the lives of our communities as well as those of our firefighters.
“In March 2022, the number of wildfires we attended in North Wales rose significantly – from a previous four-year average of around 27 fires to 100 fires for the month of March alone. That’s an increase of 264%. This picture is similar across the whole of Wales.
“That’s why working together to prevent these fires is more important than ever – and we work with a range of organisations, along with other fire and rescue services across Wales, to raise awareness of the damage that wildfires can cause to some of our most iconic upland landscapes.
“We’re also working with local landowners and farmers – many of the upland wildfires we saw in March last year were as a result of land management techniques such as prescribed moor burning getting out of control or burning brash too close to moorland vegetation.
“As well as engaging with landowners at local farmers markets, we have also got together to produce this step by step video guide to conducting controlled burning responsibly which we hope will help ensure we do not have a repeat of March 2022 next year.”
The video supports information and advice available on burning management from the Welsh Government and from the three fire and rescue services in Wales. Farmers and landowners across Wales can burn heather, grass, bracken and gorse up until the 15 March (up to 31 March in Upland areas) but they must have a Burn Plan in place to ensure they are burning safely. It is against the law to burn outside of the burning season and can result in penalties of up to £1000.
Graham Berry, Moorland Field Officer with the Clwydian Range and Dee Valley Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty in Denbighshire, North Wales, said:
“The summer of 2022 saw record-breaking high temperatures, such that wildfire is now officially recognised as a major UK hazard in the National Risk Register of Civil Emergencies, and in the UK Health Effects of Climate Change report 2023.
“The impact of wildfires can be devastating – damaging land and property, harming our wildlife and our environment, releasing CO2 and pollutants into the atmosphere and water courses, affecting local communities and businesses.
“Extinguishing a wildfire is very difficult and costly, requiring many people and specialist equipment working in dangerous and difficult conditions.
“The costs following a wildfire including restoration, land lost to farmers and businesses and disruption to communities is immense.
“Hopefully landowners will be able to follow the simple guidance in this video to help us limit the consequences of wildfires.”
Kevin Yates, Head of Fire Crime and Home Safety at South Wales Fire and Rescue Service said:
“We are focused on reducing the number of grass fires and the impact these have on our communities, landscape and wildlife.
Through effective partnership working we remain committed to preventative measures with fuel management – and by engaging with landowners, we seek the opportunity to work together in providing advice and support around robust land management plans for prescribed burns.
“By effectively managing the fuel, having detailed land management plans will limit the severity of grass fires; and supported by our educational programmes, this will help reduce the number and spread of grass fires in the future.”
Richie Vaughan-Williams, Arson Reduction Manager from Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service said:
“We want to continue to protect our landscapes, green grassland and countryside that we are all so fortunate to have on our doorstep.
“Working together and sharing our knowledge can help limit the damage that wildfires can cause.
“We understand that prescribed burns are an effective way to manage fuel load and habitats, for the benefit of the wildlife, farming and a more resilient landscape to wildfires. Having a properly planned and controlled burn that doesn’t get out of control is better for everyone. Fire and rescue services are available for free advice on how do to this safely.”
For Information and advice on burning management and conducting a controlled burn responsibly:
www.gov.wales/land-management, www.nwales-fireservice.org.uk, www.mawwfire.gov.uk, www.southwales-fire.gov.uk.