Page last updated at 15:46 GMT, Friday, 12 March 2010

Plea to parents over grass fires

Grass fire at Penrhys
Fire crews at Penrhys in the Rhondda dealt with several blazes on Monday. Photo: Dawn Surrey

Parents have a "key part" to play in helping prevent a spate of grass fires that have been deliberately started in the past few days, say fire officers.

Mid and West Wales Fire dealt with hundreds of calls to grass fires on Thursday night alone and said parents need to know what children "are up to".

Meanwhile, Rhondda assembly member Leighton Andrews warned "sooner or later" someone would be killed.

Grass fires in north Wales have partly stemmed from burning by landowners.

Parents are being encouraged to warn their children about the dangers.

Richard Webborn, head of Swansea county command at Mid and West Wales fire service, said: "Parents have a key part to play here.

Parents who have genuine concerns about any fire setting behaviour... can get specialist help from our command community safety team
Richard Webborn, Mid and West Wales fire service

"With not only highlighting the dangers of lighting fires to their children, but also ensuring that children don't have access to matches or lighters, as well as knowing what they are up to when they are out playing.

"Grass fires not only have potentially serious consequences, but they are also extremely dangerous and unpredictable and can quickly spread out of control and could cause loss of life and property."

He said the fire service was "actively working" to catch those lighting fires and would push for any person caught to be brought before the courts.

Mid and West firefighters have dealt with hundreds of grass fires during the recent dry spell, particularly around the city of Swansea and the Gower.

Extremely busy

More than 200 calls to grass fires were received on Thursday night alone, with more than "100 deliberately set grass fires in the city and Gower area".

Fires over recent days have ranged in size from small areas of grass to a number of much larger blazes involving more than 150 hectares, equivalent to around 150 rugby pitches.

The fire service said the number of incidents had so far had no significant effect on attending other calls in the Swansea area.

South Wales fire service has also been extremely busy and received hundreds of calls on Thursday night, particularly in the south Wales valleys.

It said it was currently dealing with three times the number of calls in a 24-hour period.

Wayne Evans, watch manager of Porth fire station added: "The people responsible for starting these fires should understand that every second counts.

"They are putting lives in danger because it can take us a few minutes longer to respond to incidents in the towns and villages of south Wales if we are on top of a mountain tackling a grass or forest fire."

Rhondda AM Leighton Andrews said on his website that "sooner or later, someone will get killed".

He said he had been to see a play and returned to his home in Llwynypia only to find a grass fire burning on the mountainside nearby.

He reported the blaze and the flames were beaten out by firefighters.

Mr Webborn said parents who have "genuine concerns" about any fire-setting behaviour in their children can get confidential help from the command community safety team on 03706 060699.

Community fire safety and police support officers will also tour schools in the area over the next few weeks warning children of the dangers of grass fires.

North Wales fire service has also been tackling grass fires and said it had been experiencing problems with landowners attempting controlled burning.

It has urged landowners to let the service control room know about any controlled burning so resources are not wasted attending.

By Friday afternoon, it had received 25 calls to grass fires since midnight - fewer than in the last couple of days.

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