The devastating aftermath of grass fires on Machen


Over the past eight weeks, South Wales Fire & Rescue crews have dealt with an estimated 507 deliberate grass fires

A “devastating” grass fire which destroyed more than 120 acres of land a Welsh mountain at the end of April killed “thousands” of newly planted trees and swathes of wildlife, according to Natural Resources Wales.

The fire on Machen mountain, which was first reported to South Wales Fire & Rescue Service on April 22, continued to burn for around four days and at one point came worryingly close to the village below.

The photographs below show the aftermath of the blaze, with scorched earth and blackened trees across the mountainside.

“The grass fire which affected Machen mountain has caused extensive damage to our woodlands and has destroyed thousands of newly planted trees,” said Peter Cloke, Land Management Team Leader at Natural Resources Wales.

“The impact wildfires have on nature and wildlife, particularly at this time of year with ground-nesting birds is devastating and the fire will have killed many reptiles, invertebrates and small mammals. With many species of biodiversity declining in the UK we cannot afford to continually suffer such losses.”

In addition to the devastating impact on biodiversity, Mr Cloke added that the financial cost of fires like these can “soar into the hundreds of thousands pounds.”

A spokesperson for South Wales Fire and Rescue Service confirmed the service received 424 calls to its control room about this one fire alone.

They also confirmed that, in the week leading up to April 27, crews responded to more than 160 “suspected deliberate” grass fires across south Wales. In the week leading to May 4, there have been 29 suspected deliberate grass fires.

The spokesperson also confirmed that there has been a significant rise in deliberate grass fires between 2020 and 2021. Over the past eight weeks there have been 507 deliberate grass fires, compared with 434 in the previous year – a 17% rise.

A statement from the fire service said: “Wildfires impact our communities across Wales and draw fundamental and valuable resources away from our communities, placing unnecessary risk on lives.

“The impact of grass fires is devastating on the environment, killing animals and destroying wildlife habitat as we have already seen in multiple areas across south Wales.

“We will continue to work with our communities to reduce the risk and impact of grass fires, however we would remind people to please refrain from the use of any open flame fires in such areas to reduce the risk of fires starting and spreading due to the increased warm and dry weather.”

It added: “We would also like to say a special thank you to the local residents who supported us throughout, even offering our firefighters tackling the blaze water and snacks.”

Residents of Machen have since set up a fundraiser for the crews of firefighters involved in tackling the fire, here:

You can see the aftermath of the blaze below.

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