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Thursday, August 29, 2019

Report out on 2018 Llantysilio mountain fire

* The mountainside on fire on July 26 last year.

A report into last year’s Llantysilio Mountain fire has been published.

Denbighshire County Council’s Communities Scrutiny Committee conducted a review into the summer 2018 fire along with the impact on the community, businesses and the local environment.
The report concluded that land management difficulties over an extended period of time contributed towards the length of time the fire burned.

It said the non-utilisation of grazing rights due to the downturn in the agricultural economy, a situation replicated across Wales, was an issue as the grazing of sheep, combined with managed burning and mowing were all essential elements for the maintenance of heathland, which could help reduce the risk from fires.

It also noted that open lines of communication between all agencies is required to facilitate a joined-up, co-ordinated response as well as to communicate clear, accurate information to the public and those affected.

The report has set out a number of recommendations including endorsing those put forward by the North Wales Local Resilience Forum as well as strengthening multi-agency work when responding to similar incidents.

Other recommendations include coordinating land management activities in this and other moorland areas to reduce the risk of similar fires in future and seeking the Welsh Government’s support to maintain the economic and environmental sustainability of upland moorland areas and to consider providing financial assistance to facilitate the necessary restoration work on Llantysilio Mountain.

Cllr Huw O Williams, chair of Denbighshire County Council’s Communities Scrutiny Committee, said: “The purpose of this review was not to apportion blame on any individual, service, organisation or group with respect of the fire or the response to it, but to better understand and learn from the event to help improve the response and management of similar incidents in future.

“On behalf of the Committee I would like to thank the agencies who tackled this difficult mountain fire and subsequently agreed to take part in the Committee’s venture to understand and learn from it. I would like to thank local residents and representatives of those who own or work on Llantysilio Mountain for their valuable contributions to the inquiry.

“The Committee sincerely hopes all agencies, organisations and individuals who participated will find the report informative and useful as a reference point for future collaborative efforts.”

Organisations which took part in the review included North Wales Regional Emergency Planning Service, Natural Resources Wales, North Wales Fire and Rescue Service, North Wales Police The Horseshoe Pass Graziers Association, owners of the Llantysilio Estate and their land agents, Dŵr Cymru Welsh Water, Hafren Dyfrdwy Water Company, Llantysilio Community Council and Denbighshire County Council.

Chief Fire Officer Simon Smith said: “We appreciated the opportunity to take part in the Community Scrutiny Committee review of the Llantysilio Mountain fire and welcome the recommendations made which focus on the lack of robust land management over an extended period of time and on the endorsing the recommendations of the North Wales Local Resilience Forum.

“We look forward to working with the other stakeholders involved in addressing these recommendations.

“We strongly believe that fire prevention is key to mitigating against such incidents and that all stakeholders should work together in this regard - and the recommendation to appoint a moorland management officer is welcomed.

“I would like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to all fire and rescue service staff from across the whole of North Wales who worked tirelessly to bring this incident under control. I am immensely proud of their professionalism in what were some incredibly challenging and unprecedented conditions.”

Bethan Beech, Denbighshire team leader for Natural Resources Wales, said: “Llantysilio Mountain is an important part of the local community and farming economy as well as heathland habitat which is home to black grouse and curlew.

“We welcome this report which makes some valuable recommendations about how last year’s fire was dealt with and how the land can be managed in the future.

“We were pleased to contribute to it and look forward to working with partners to implement its recommendations.

“The proposal to appoint a moorland management officer to co-ordinate the numerous groups involved on the mountain is particularly exciting.

“We look forward to working with Denbighshire County Council and others on delivering this post and a programme of work to help the mountain recover in a way that reduces the risk of future fires. 

“We hope the officer can encourage the common land graziers to exercise their legal grazing rights and actively manage the vegetation. This helps the graziers and also looks after this important wildlife habitat.”

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