Wildfires becoming increasing problem for North Wales firefighters, fire chief says

WILDFIRES, some caused by extreme weather events linked to climate change, are becoming an increasing problem for North Wales firefighters, a fire chief has said.

Deputy chief fire officer Stewart Forshaw gave an update to members of the authority’s Executive Panel on the increase in incidents responded to in the first nine months of the financial year 2022-23.

There were 55 wildfires in North Wales – adding up to 108 hours spent dealing with these incidents.

Mr Forshaw said that while accidental house fires were decreasing, the number of wildfire incidents across the whole of the UK are on the climb.

He said: “Wildfires continue to be an area focus for us, which can be a result of severe weather events linked to climate change and is an area growth in the UK in comparison to the reduction in house fires which we’ve just discussed.

“Wildfires can be particularly challenging for the service to deal with because of their erratic nature, potential size and intensity, and because of the rural and rural-urban interfacing environment in which they tend to occur.”

There has been an upwards trend too, in the number of incidents the service attended in the first three quarters of 2022-23.

“In the first nine months of the financial year the service attended 4,656 emergency incidents”, said Mr Forshaw.

“This is an increase of over 16 per cent compared with the same period in 2021-22.

“You will note there has been a 37 per cent increase in attendance at non-fire emergencies which we classify as special service incidents.

“This follows a change in our policy from the previous reporting year around our attendance at special service incidents, which is to provide more assistance to the public and partner agencies whilst at the same time increasing our visibility within the communities of North Wales.”

Mr Forshaw said the number of accidental house fires had decreased from 314 to 258 while the service continually tries to encourage more smoke and heat detector ownership in households.

There have been no house fire deaths in the first nine months of the year, and the number of serious injuries has reduced from four to two in the same period the year before.

But an upward trend in false alarms has continued, with 2,064 – an increase of 175 on the same period the previous year.

Recruitment was given as a potential reason for the authority’s improved performance when it comes to availability of fire stations to respond to incidents.

Mr Forshaw added: “In April last we implemented a new structure and part of that new structure included dedicated recruitment and available managers across the three areas of the service.

“It’s possible that the introduction of those roles has contributed to an increase in focus in the availability of stations and also in recruitment.

“We have seen a net increase during the past nine months in the number of people we have managed to recruit into on-call roles which may be having an effect as well.”

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