Desperate firefighters appeal for help as wildfires rip through Welsh countryside
The continuing epidemic of summer wildfires in Wales has forced two fire services to put out appeals to the public to understand the impact deliberately-lit blazes is having. Firefighters said lives were being put at risk and the countryside destroyed by the fires, as first reported by Wales Online.
Unlike in the English uplands, there are few trained gamekeepers with local knowledge and equipment on hand to support the fire service out when wildfires do breakout.
In the last 24 hours, there have been new fires in Tylorstown, Rhondda, and the Gaer, Newport and Abercraf in Powys. And South Wales Fire Service said it had battled a total of 77 wild arson attacks, as well as several naturally occurring grass fires in just the last four days. Mid and West Fire Service also issued a statement saying it had attended over 490 wildfire incidents so far in 2023, of these incidents, 341 of them are believed to have been started deliberately.
South Wales Fire and Rescue's Matthew Jones, said: “We have been working tirelessly with our partners to deal with several large, deliberate wildfires across south Wales. These unnecessary fires have caused severe damage to the Welsh landscape, forestry and wildlife while placing the lives of our firefighters and the public at risk. Deliberate fire setting is a crime, and we would urge anyone with information to report this to the police or anonymously via Crimestoppers.”
The figures from south Wales show that between June 14 and June 18 Caerphilly alone had 18 wildfires. Rhondda Cynon Taf had 14, while Bridgend saw 12. It comes after South Wales Fire and Rescue Service announced its crews were battling six wildfires across the region last Wednesday afternoon alone.
Over the same period, the fire crew said it also attended a number of non-deliberate wildfires. These included the Gaer in Newport which destroyed between 12 and 24 acres of land, and a fire in Blaengarw, Bridgend, which burnt between June 9 and June 18. Other fires were attended in Pantside in Merthyr Tydfil, Nant y Ffyllon in Maesteg and Pontycymmer in Bridgend. Another large fire was spotted in Tylorstown on June 19. Its cause is not yet known.
Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service also released a statement on June 19 warning that its crews had been "extremely busy" over the last few weeks. It came after a BBQ fire on land at Coelbren, Abercrave, saw around 100 acres of grassland destroyed just days before. It followed another forestry fire in Abercrave in which 74 acres of forestry was destroyed.
The statement read: "The last few weeks have been extremely busy for fire and rescue crews across Wales who have been dealing with several wildfire incidents. Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service (MAWWFRS) have attended over 490 wildfire incidents so far in 2023, of these incidents, 341 of them are believed to have been started deliberately. Wildfires are responsible for the destruction of thousands of hectares of countryside, open space and wildlife habitats every year"
Amongst the deliberately started fires was a significant blaze in Tir-Phil, New Tredegar. The fire started at around 11am on Wednesday, June 14, and took more than two days for fire crews to extinguish. Resident Heidi Edwards told WalesOnline on Wednesday: "I have been watching the fire since around 1pm.
"It's sweeping across and there is a helicopter above [pouring water] onto it. There seems to be no containing it...At first I was scared, I think it is very sad. There are sheep on the mountain as well as peregrines and kites living in the cove. It's such a beautiful scene and now we've got this to look at. At the other side of the mountain where the fire is out, it's all black."