Operation Dawns Glaw, a multi-agency task force of specialists from key agencies across Wales has reformed to reduce, and where possible eliminate, the impact of grass fires across Wales.
The task force, which was initially established in 2016 to tackle the incidents of deliberately set grass fires across Wales, will also be turning its attention to the increase in accidental fires, often caused as a result of our own careless behaviour when out enjoying the countryside.
During 2020, Fire and Rescue Services across Wales dealt with 2,253 grass fires. Whilst this was a slight increase on 2019, the number of accidental fires in 2020 had increased by 20%. This increase has in part been attributed to the number of us who spent our spring and summer months enjoying our local countryside, due to the lockdown measures in place as a result of the Coronavirus Pandemic – and as we enter another year whereby staycations here in Wales are likely to dominate our holidays, the Task Force is keen to make sure that we all do so safely, protecting the precious countryside to include its wildlife and habitats which we are so proud to have on our doorsteps.
The Deputy Minister for Housing and Local Government, Hannah Blythyn said: ‘With more people enjoying their local countryside and the prospect of more people opting for a staycation this year, it is more important than ever that we work together to eliminate grass fires and protect our environment. Careless behaviour resulted in an increase in accidentally set grass fires last year.
‘Deliberately setting grass fires by any means is totally irresponsible and unacceptable. At a time of increased pressure, we need to work together and avoid putting further strain on Wales’ emergency services.’
Mydrian Harries, Corporate Head of Prevention and Protection for Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service, and Chair of Operation Dawns Glaw, said: ‘I think it is particularly poignant that we are launching our campaign on St David’s Day this year as we appeal to our patriotic nature, with a plea that we all work together to protect the green grassland and countryside that we are all so fortunate to have on our doorstep.
‘While we know that the warm weather we experienced during the early summer months last year will have contributed to the slight increase in grass fires across Wales, we also know that the number of fires caused accidentally increased as well. While accidents do happen, they are also avoidable and this year’s campaign will focus on educating us all on some of the small steps we can take to ensure we don’t accidentally cause grass fires to ignite.
‘I would also like to take the opportunity to reinforce our messages that while accidents can happen, there are others within our communities who are deliberately setting fire to our countryside – not only is this a crime, for which they will be prosecuted, but it also places unnecessary pressure on front-line services and puts our communities in harm’s way. I would encourage anyone with information relating to such crimes to call 101, or to report anonymously to CrimeStoppers on 0800 555 111.’
The Operation is also continuing its work with farmers and landowners across Wales, reminding them that while they may burn heather, grass, bracken and gorse up until 15 March (up to 31 March in Upland areas), 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 £1,000.
Find out more about #DawnsGlaw 2021 via Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service’s website www.mawwfire.gov.uk/DawnsGlaw, where you can also access some simple safety tips and download the campaign’s safety messages for use on your own social media channels. Together we can help stop grass fires and protect our countryside and our country.
Remember: if you are out enjoying the countryside and you do come across any suspicious activity, please call CrimeStoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111, or ring 101. In an emergency, always call 999.
For more information, go to www.mawwfire.gov.uk