For three days Wardens from Bannau Brycheiniog National Park Authority and the Fire Brigade and have been battling a catastrophic fire between Trap, Brynamman and Llandeilo which has seen an area of more than 2000 acres of peat bog and one of the most important SSSI sites in the National Park suffer severe damage. The situation took a dramatic turn for the worse yesterday with a sudden change of wind and military assistance was requested late yesterday evening to help tackle the blaze.
Although the fire has not been fully contained the situation has improved and Wardens are hopeful that with continued assistance from fire crews and the military, the fire will be brought under control later tonight.
Judith Harvey, Western Area Warden for Bannau Brycheiniog National Park Authority said that the fire was not threatening any properties but was the worst heath land fire she’d seen in more than thirty years.
“This fire continues to burn and logistically it has been extremely difficult to access. We have been fortunate enough to have the support of Brecon Carreg Water who’ve offered us an unlimited supply of water but the only way of attacking the mile long fire front at the moment is with quad bikes and water bowsers which is time consuming and problematic. We have also had military assistance, staffed by the Infantry Battle School in Brecon, which has been a huge help to tackle areas of the deep set peat bog which is still on fire. For our Wardens who’ve spent years working to rejuvenate this site as one of the most pristine and priority habitats in the National Park this is particularly demoralising.” she said.
Paul Sinnadurai, Ecologist and Senior Policy Advisor for Bannau Brycheiniog National Park Authority said: “This site was one of our most important heather moorland habitats and this fire has had an utterly devastating effect. The fire has burned with such intensity that it has reached down into carbon-rich peat bog so the long term effects of this are immeasurable – it could very well take years to recover. When peat bog is damaged in this way it reduces its capacity to hold water, releases carbon and increases surface water runoff, flood risk and causes erosion problems in the future.
“For many years we have worked with the local fire services and the Countryside Council for Wales (CCW) to carry out consented controlled burns in this area in order to rejuvenate the heather and improve conditions for grazing and for biodiversity. All that hard work has now been undone. We are not yet clear if this fire was started deliberately but if it was it amounts to a wildlife crime. Ground-nesting birds like skylarks, meadow pipit, red grouse, hen harriers and merlins have been killed and the fire has left a trail of habitat destruction for miles.”
Thick plumes of smoke could be seen as far away as Llandeilo as the fire broke into seven fronts yesterday but besides the fire on Mynydd Isaf Common, other fires across the Bannau Brycheiniog National Park that continue to burn.
Wardens from the National Park will continue to issue fire warnings throughout the coming weeks and are urging people to remain vigilant during the warm, dry weather.
Chris Davies, Assistant Chief Fire Officer for Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service, said: “Crews from Ammanford and Pontardawe are at the scene of this blaze, and firefighters are working with the National Park authorities to try and minimise damage to wildlife and infrastructure. We have not yet established the cause of the fire, but we cannot rule out deliberate fire-setting at this stage. Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service frequently see an increase in grass fires at this time of year due to the dry weather and wind. We are reminding the public to take care around dry grass, for example by being vigilant when extinguishing cigarettes.”
Judith Harvey said: “We are facing a period of grave fire danger and our Wardens will be patrolling our high risk areas and advising people of the increased risk in the National Park. We are urging people not to light BBQs and campfires in open countryside and not to release or light any Chinese lanterns. People also need to think responsibly about how they dispose of cigarette butts, lighters, glass bottles and matches. If anyone does see a fire or someone acting irresponsibly, they should report it quickly to the fire service by phoning 999 so that they can take appropriate action.”
The Fire Severity Index in the Bannau Brycheiniog National Park continues to remain at ‘ High’ and ‘Exceptional’.
Pictures: Copyright of Bannau Brycheiniog National Park Authority
NOTES TO EDITORS
Bannau Brycheiniog National Park is a landscape that offers a legacy of unparalleled proportions with spectacular mountain ranges, internationally renowned geology, bountiful wildlife and diverse recreational opportunities. It contains some of the most spectacular and distinctive upland formations in southern Britain and covers an area of 1347 sq km (520 sq miles).
The Met Office produce a Fire Severity Index in map format that can be viewed on CCW’s web site at: http://www.ccw.gov.uk/enjoying-the-country/countryside-access-map/fire-severity-index-map.aspx The fire severity index is represented by means of a simple scale to predict possible circumstances. The index has five levels of fire risk, from one [very low] to five [exceptional].
A scoring of five would reflect extremely dry weather conditions or dramatic changes in the condition of the land.
Please be aware that wildfires can occur at any value of the Met Office Fire Severity Index.