Fire crews across North Wales last year attended almost double the number of open air fires they were called to the year before.
During the course of the 2018/19, fire crews attended 5,301 fires, false alarms and special service incidents.
A total of 2,267 turned out to be actual blazes with the number of accidental house fires falling to the lowest level ever recorded in north Wales (327), but there was a rise in the number of grassland, woodland and crop fires – almost doubling in number from 340 in 2017/18 to 637.
The report, presented to members of the North Wales Fire and Rescue Authority, also found found that of 11,727 false alarms attended since 2014, just over half (6,327) were as a result of automatic fire alarm systems being triggered.
Another 5,141 resulted from calls by well meaning members of the public which later turned out to be genuine false alarms, while the remaining 250 incidents turned out to be malicious hoax calls.
But while the number of automatic fire alarm incidents attended has remained relatively constant over the last three years, genuine callers reporting non-existent fires increased significantly in 2018/19 – which the report notes is largely down to heightened awareness during the hot dry summer of 2018.
Last summer saw several gorse fires across the region, resulting in crews attending 32% more secondary fires (1,175) than in 2017/18 (893).
The majority of these fires took place outdoors, meaning that there were more secondary than primary fires (960) for the first time since 2015.
According to the service, primary fires are classed as non-chimney fires and take place in any type of non-derelict building.
Fires in any location are also categorised as primary fires if they involved casualties, rescues or escapes, as are fires in any location that were attended by five or more fire engines.
“The Service attended 2,267 fires, which was an increase of 12% (253 more fires) and exceeded the 3-year average,” the report noted.
“The number of chimney fires remained relatively low and the number of primary fires continued to show a downward trend.
“In contrast, however, there was an increase in secondary fires and for the first time since 2015/16 there were more secondary fires than primary fires.”
It went on to say: “The service attended 8% more false alarms in 2018/19 than in the previous year.
“Within that total there was a 14% increase in false alarms made with good intent, which may be associated with heightened vigilance and public apprehension during the hot dry summer months.”
In a bid to cut down on the number of grass, gorse and forest fires, the service has issued advice to members of the public.
“We urge everybody to take extra care when they are out and about in the countryside to help reduce the risk of fire – especially during exceptionally hot and dry weather,” said Kevin Roberts, the Senior Fire Safety Manager.
“In dry conditions, fires involving grass, bracken and heather can develop extremely quickly, especially in raised winds, and fires can soon get out of control and spread to neighbouring properties or forestry, with the need for us then to attend to extinguish them.
“So if you are out, it is more important than ever in these conditions to make sure that any smoking materials are discarded and extinguished properly.
“If you are out camping, again make sure that campfires or barbecues are fully extinguished.
“Better still, avoid open fires altogether during dry periods.”
By Gareth Williams – BBC Local Democracy Reporter (more here on the LDR scheme).
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