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Last Updated: Saturday, 19 April, 2003, 12:48 GMT 13:48 UK
Five arrested as fires rage
Fire at Baglan, Port Talbot
Fire was close to reaching properties at Baglan
Five people have been arrested on suspicion of arson as hundreds of forest and grass fires have swept across Wales.

The five, all aged in their late teens or early twenties, were arrested in connection with a blaze on a mountainside at Llanbradach, near Caerphilly, south Wales on Friday.

They were later released by police.

One of the areas worst-hit by the fires was Baglan, near Port Talbot.

We will do our best to attend calls but they are outstripping the resources available to us
Andy Marles, South Wales Fire Service
Ten homes were evacuated as the two mile-long fire threatened to reach properties.

Around 90 firefighters tackled the blaze and residents were allowed back to their homes by dawn on Saturday.

Four crews from Mid and West Wales Fire Service were still at the scene on Bwlch Mynydd, above Baglan, on Saturday afternoon.

Crews had to be called from as far afield as Llandovery and Brecon to help fight the blaze.

County fire commander for Swansea, Philip Bailey, said: "The fire is under control.

"We are protecting property and allowing it to controllably burn off at the top of the mountain rather than commit crews on steep slopes."

Mr Bailey added that the brigade had received an unprecedented level of calls - around 500 - on Friday.

Blaze in Wattsville area of south Wales
A helicopter drops water bombs in Wattsville, south Wales
He said: "The crews worked tirelessly and for a long time.

"There were arduous and punishing conditions.

"(The fire) has been in people's back gardens and burning down the fences - that's how close it came."

Baglan resident Roger Dennis said that the fire almost reached his home.

He added: "The fire was about 200 yards away from the house.

"The fire service and the police turned up and said that we should evacuate the house."

South Wales Fire Service was called to around 40 grass fires on Saturday.

The fires affected areas surrounding Risca, Duffryn and Dowlais in Gwent, and Maesteg, near Bridgend.

Fire at Baglan, Port Talbot
The fire brigade have been stretched by dozens of fires
South Wales Fire Service said it had received 2,500 calls and attended 300 fires on in the first 24 hours of the bank holiday weekend.

It is believed that many of the fires were started deliberately.

Deputy Chief Fire Officer Andy Marles said: "We will do our best to attend calls but they are outstripping the resources available to us.

"The Brigade is appealing to the public to be more vigilant.

"Many of these fires are started deliberately by children, so we are appealing to parents to find out what their children are doing."

In north Wales, firefighters spent two days bringing a fire on the Arrenig Mountain above Blaenau Ffestiniog under control.

Strong winds fanned the blaze, which was 10 miles long.

Nick Holyfield, fire incident commander at the scene, said: "You think you have one patch knocked on the head and it flares up somewhere else, so it can be disconcerting."

A forecast of cooler weather and showers was expected to dampen any further fires over the bank holiday weekend.


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