Cases of arson in Wales have rocketed according to new figures which show there were more than 7,523 deliberate fires in Wales in a single year – the equivalent of 20 every single day.
There were 47 people injured as a result of the blazes, while firefighters spent the equivalent of 182 days fighting them.
The total number of arsons is over 1,000 more than the previous year, when 6,372 fires were started deliberately across the country – an increase of nearly 20%.
A freedom of information request from WalesOnline revealed the location – accurate to within 100m – of every act of arson recorded by Wales’ three fire services in the 2018-19 financial year.
This map shows where they all happened. If you click on each flame you can learn more about that incident including the type of fire it was, how many people were hurt, and how long crews were there for. The map can take some time to load, particularly on mobile phones. Please be patient.
What do these figures mean?
Saying “7,523 acts of arson” may sound like a lot but was does that mean for our stretched public services?
These are the headline figures:
- Four people lost their lives
- 78 people were injured
- 11,089 hours of fire service time was wasted. Up from 4,357 since last year.
- 462 days were wasted in total
How fire can quickly take hold of a dry Christmas tree:
Why has the number of fires gone up so much?
The fire services have pointed to the hot summer as the prinicple cause of the increase.
Mydrian Harries, corporate head of prevention and protection for Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service, said: “Unfortunately, the figures for 2018/19 show a substantial increase in the number of incidents of deliberate grass fires attended across the whole of Wales, when we compare with our successes of the 2017/18 period.
“Due to substantially less rainfall during the early months of the year and a significantly dryer summer, factors outside of our control have had a negative impact on the statistics. When you compare 2017/18 against 2018/19, across Wales, we attended 230% more incidents of deliberate grass fires in June, 739% more in July, 198% more in August, 167% more in September and 114% more in October.
“When faced with unprecedented and prolonged dry and hot weather conditions, grassland and vegetation becomes susceptible to ignition and often spreads quickly to create even larger fires that present significant challenges to the fire and rescue services. Our experience also shows that more people spend time outside during this weather, which also increases the risk of fires starting from discarded barbeques and smoking materials, for example.”
He added: “While these recently published figures are disappointing, we know that the unique weather period last summer was the single biggest contributor to increasing the figures for the reporting year and that it does not detract from the overall success of Operation Dawns Glaw and the effort our multi-agency partners over the last 12 months.
“History shows that engaging with young people through targeted interventions, high visibility patrols in vulnerable areas and education and marketing of safety advice, works. Building on this, we have actively focussed on the farming community to further educate and inform those responsible for carrying out controlled burns to manage land vegetation in a more controlled and safe manner.
“These figures clearly show that with all the will, determination and a hugely successful collaborative task force in place, sometimes uncontrollable factors such as the weather can have a significant impact on our success.”