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Warning over impact of grass fires on water resources

  • Wales experienced hottest June on record
  • South Wales Fire Service has multiple crews mobilised tackling numerous grass fire incidents across region
  • Fires cause unnecessary strain on water resources during dry spell

Tackling deliberate grass fires is putting strain on emergency service resources and water supplies, it has been warned.

Forest Fire

Dŵr Cymru Welsh Water and South Wales Fire and Rescue Service issued the joint warning as firefighters appealed for people to be vigilant of fires being started deliberately and to get in contact by calling 101 if they have information about the causes of the fires.

Fighting grass fires can put pressure on water supplies at a time when Wales is experiencing a prolonged period of dry weather, with June confirmed as the hottest on record in Wales.

The fire service has eight fire engines in use tackling grass fires, and has also brought a helicopter into use to draw extra water in the effort. At the ongoing incident at Twmbarlwm, a total of 250 hectares of land has already been affected by grass fires roughly the same as 250 rugby pitches. It is too early to measure the total devastating impact on the environment across all areas affected.

The fire service also asked for people at this time to please avoid using any open flame fires or barbeques, as well as to be careful about disposing of cigarette butts properly, in order to reduce the risk of fires starting and spreading.

Gwent Police has increased patrols in the area as well as bringing in aerial support of drones in target areas to undergo surveillance and gather information used to support prosecutions. Gwent Police have also issued a dispersal notice at Twmbarlwm from 5pm on Thursday, 26 July until 5pm on Saturday, 28 July 2018.

Drinking water supplies can be impacted as Welsh Water supports the fire services across Wales to work around the clock to put out grass fires.

Welsh Water has already asked customers to use water efficiently to help it maintain customers’ supplies and protect the environment, with the dry spell is set to continue into August. The company is supplying the fire service with around a million litres of water a week through tankers to help fight mountain fires, which avoids the service having to connect to our network through fire hydrants, which can discolour the water.

It has also allowed the service access to reservoirs, including Llandegfedd and Cwmtillery, to allow them to collect water for its helicopters.

Managing Director of Welsh Water, Peter Perry, said: “As well as the significant burden on resources of the emergency services, tackling these fires is diverting valuable drinking water supplies at a time when we’re experiencing some of the hottest weather on record.

“While we are working flat out to maintain supplies as normal during the dry spell, pumping more than a billion litres a day into our network and with 450 people working seven days a week to find and repair leaks on our network, we need everyone to help us in this effort.

“Deliberate fires undermine the great efforts customers go to use their water efficiently, so we would encourage anyone who has suspicions about a deliberate fire to contact 101 or call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 with information.”

Assistant Chief Fire Officer Richard Prendergast states “I am really proud of how hard our crews have worked over the past several weeks to deal with this range of challenging incidents. We appreciate all of the support we have had from partner agencies and our communities.

“While the high instances of fires that we are currently experiencing is challenging to us – we are still able to provide our normal high level of service to the public of South Wales.”