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Thursday, August 23, 2018

Mountain fire operation is challenged

* llanblogger's picture of the fire visible from Llangollen town centre.

Former Llangollen councillor Stuart Davies (pictured below) has expressed further views about the Llantysilio mountain fire.

These come as a result of his attending the meeting in Llandegla on Monday night organised by the area's county councillor.

They are also directly in response to comments made to the Denbighshire Free Press by Dawn Beech, acting operations manager for North East Wales at National Resources Wales.

First quoting sections of her comments he then responds to them point by point:

Dawn Beech: “Mynydd Llantysilio is really important to both people and wildlife. It is home to rare birds like the black grouse, provides grazing areas for local farmers and is popular with walkers.

“We have worked with Denbighshire countryside service, RSPB and farmers over recent years to cut heather for the grouse, to improve grazing areas for sheep and to help reduce fire risk."

Stuart Davies: "It’s obvious that the action plan didn’t work. It’s a pity that they don’t do proper controlled burning, which is the time honoured way of controlling the vegetation on the moors and mountains.

"More needs to be done and quickly. One of the points brought up at the meeting is for agencies to learn from this disaster. As myself and Rhys Hughes drove home from that meeting we could see that the heather and gorse to the east of the Horseshoe Pass is overgrown, much as Llantysilio Mountain was. It is a disaster waiting to happen.

"We still haven’t had a downpour, the weather is still conducive to more fires. If it catches on that side of the road then there is 6-8 miles of mountain towards Penycae, Rhos and Wrexham that could go up.

"Fire breaks need to be put in place now! Also the vegetation needs flailing on ALL of the Horseshoe Pass verges where they meet the road. Again coming home that night, it can be seen on the south side of the downward pass right up to the road side."

Dawn Beech: “During the fire, our staff worked with North Wales Fire and Rescue Service (NWFRS) and Denbighshire Countryside Services to cut back vegetation and create fire breaks to try and stop the fire spreading."

Stuart Davies: "The question here is when? That question needs to be answered.

"The farming community offered help on day two and ten, according to my sources. Why wasn't that taken up?"

Dawn Beech: “Approximately half the mountain was burnt and the peatland areas have been particularly badly affected. NWFRS remain on site monitoring the area."

Stuart Davies: "If they had taken up the offers of help early on I would argue that half the mountain would not have been burned. Proper fire breaks as advocated by the farming community and the offer to do it would have stopped it in its tracks. Regular yearly controlled burning as advocated by conservation groups and farmers would have stopped the build-up of brash which allowed the fire to go deep."

Dawn Beech: “When we have confirmation the fires are out we will carry out a full survey of the mountain to see how we can help the area recover."

Stuart Davies: "Is that going to include putting in permanent fire breaks and making it easier to do yearly controlled burning so that we don’t have the situation of build-up of brash to allow deep seated fires to remain under the vegetation?"

Dawn Beech: “We’ll be working with the other organisations involved to carry out a review of our response.”

Stuart Davies: "Will that include listening to the farming community and taking on board their views and facilitating their actions?

"My conclusion:

"IMHO political correctness as in “we must save the black grouse and its habitat” appears to have in fact been counterproductive, the grouse “have been cooked” and the habitat destroyed.

"The farming community has lots to offer and has lots of expertise in managing hillsides and moorland. Listen to them and act QUICKLY on their advice.

"Make it easier and less bureaucratic to manage the hillside. Let the farming community do what they do best, let them husband the land.

"And finally, get in there now, cut the verges so that the fire doesn’t encroach on the roads and jump them. They had to do it anyway.

"Cut firebreaks and make the area to the east safe so that if a fire breaks out on that side it can’t reach the major conurbations of Penycae, Rhos or even Wrexham."

Stuart Millington, senior operations manager for North Wales Fire and Rescue Service is quoted in the Free Press saying: “At large scale grass and gorse fires NWFRS work in partnership with our colleagues in NRW and consider a variety of short, medium and longterm implications before implementing a tactical plan that seeks to resolve these incidents.

“This did include some work to cut fire breaks in strategic locations. Whilst we are grateful for the offer of help from local farmers, resources provided to implement this tactical plan and cut any firebreaks were provided by our partners and were considered to be sufficient." 

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