South Wales Fire and Rescue Service unveiled their brand new project with the aim of tackling deliberate grass fires in the Tonypandy area this Easter.
Named the ‘Bernie’ project – that uses a cartoon sheep (Bernie) as the project logo and ‘grass is green, fire is mean’ as the project strapline, both developed by students at Tonypandy Community College. The partnerships approach between South Wales Fire and Rescue Service, the Forestry Commission, Cardiff University, Rhondda Cynon Taff (RCT) Community Safety Partnerships, South Wales Police, RCT Trading Standards, Communities First, Probation Services, RCT Close Circuit Television and Tonypandy Community College will aim to reduce the number of deliberate grass fires in the Tonypandy area over the Easter Holiday period.
To mark the start of this exciting new project, personnel from South Wales Fire and Rescue Service attended Tonypandy Community College’s Eisteddfod to congratulate Stacey Gowin, Sophie Harries, Hannah Morgan and Tamsin Jones and Jazim Williams on their winning designs.
Fire Service staff and partners gave further information on aims of the project as well as details on the enforcement activities and the free diversionary activities being run for the young people of Tonypandy during the Easter holidays. They also handed out free project ‘Bernie’ promotional items including, Bernie ‘We Want Ewe’ activity booklets, keyrings, magnets and car stickers.
This engagement project has been tailored for the community of Tonypandy by using new social marketing techniques in education, enforcement, operational tactics, training along with partnership working and will focus on 3 main areas:
1. Diversionary activities for young people during the Easter holidays
By working in conjunction with the young people who live and study in Tonypandy we have developed a programme of diversionary activities that will be run throughout the Easter Holidays. Activities will include becoming a Firefighter for a day, learning how to design and produce a piece of fire related graffiti art, making pottery, writing a song and recording a CD and learning ‘bush craft’ survival skills.
The activities will be used to educate and ‘deter’ young persons from deliberately setting grass fires. This programme is run in partnership with Tonypandy Community College and local youth groups.
2. High visibility patrols in the area
South Wales Fire and Rescue Service will provide a high profile presence in areas where there is a high level of grass fires deter’ young persons from deliberately setting grass fires.
3. High visibility media messages raising local community awareness
enforcement and diversionary messages will be promoted through media tools such as billboards, street stencils and flyers
- Convicted arsonists can face serious consequences
- Fire and Rescue Service is working in partnership to catch and convict arsonists
- Arson has a negative impact of the people living within the community and the environment
- Fire and Rescue Service is hosting and facilitating diversionary and engagement activities for young people in Tonypandy under the title project Bernie.
Each year, South Wales Fire and Rescue Service fight a huge number of deliberate grass fires that traditionally scar the South Wales Valleys every Spring. Martin Hendersen, Head of Risk Reduction for the South Wales Fire and Rescue Service, said:
“Tackling the issues of deliberate grass fires is as much about prevention, education and enforcement as it is about new operational equipment and tactics. We have been and will continue to work closely with the Forestry Commission Wales and our partner agencies to address the underlying issues of anti social behaviour that result in the devastation of the environment”. We are very keen to involve the local people in stopping the blight of deliberate grass fires, it has a negative impact to the community of Tonypandy, to the taxpayer and to the environment, it has to stop”
Attending the launch of the new project will be representatives from partners of the project including the Forestry Commission Wales, who work closely with the Fire and Rescue Service in combating grass fires by providing areas for training fire crews and ensuring that Firefighters receive vital information, such as details of the forest roads network, to help them respond quickly to any emergency.
The Easter holiday period traditionally sees the number of deliberately set grass fires in grass and mountain areas soar and results in South Wales’ fire crews being stretched to breaking point. Annually, the South Wales Fire and Rescue Service makes special preparations for potential spate conditions and this year, the Service is hoping that the diversionary and enforcement activities they have in place via project Bernie will reduce the number of deliberately set grass fires and ease the burden on the hundreds of Firefighters that may have to be mobilised to the valleys over the coming weeks.
Andy Marles, Chief Fire Officer, South Wales Fire and Rescue, said:
“Deliberately set grass fires are extremely unpredictable and can spiral out of control within minutes. Every time our Firefighters are called out to a deliberately set grass or mountain fire, not only does it cost the taxpayer thousands of pounds, negatively impacts on the environment, wildlife and carbon footprint and puts Firefighters at a needless risk but it also means that Firefighters could be diverted from attending a real emergency – someone trapped in a house fire or a crashed car, where there is a potential life risk”.
“The social marketing ‘Bernie’ project is an innovative and new approach to addressing a major social problem such as deliberately set grass fires. Working with our partners and Cardiff University who have provided us with critical direction, guidance and advice on this new concept we aim to reduce deliberately set grass fires in the Tonypandy area through enforcement, diversion and education”
Spate conditions occur when there are not enough fire appliances locally to deal with an incident, so fire appliances and other fire fighting equipment will be called in from neighbouring Stations and on occasions neighbouring Fire and Rescue Services. This is known as “Spate condition” – where appliances are moved around the organisation to provide the best fire cover possible.