01 April 2011>
An innovative project, aimed at reducing the incidence of deliberate grass fire setting in and around the Bargoed area will be launched by the Safer Caerphilly Community Safety Partnership this week.
Project Bernie aims to reduce the number of deliberate grass fires over the Easter holiday period, by using a combination of social marketing techniques in education and enforcement to address the issue.
During 2010, there were 209 reported deliberate grass fires in and around the Bargoed area – the Easter holiday period traditionally sees the number of deliberately set grass fires soar, and results in South Wales' fire crews being stretched to breaking point.
Project Bernie will focus on a number of main areas including:
- Diversionary activities for young people – Activities will include being a 'Firefighter' for the day, bush craft survival skills, learning how to design and create a piece of fire-themed art, sports activities including training sessions with the Newport Gwent Dragons and much more.
- High visibility patrols – A number of agencies will provide a high profile presence in areas where there is traditionally a high level of grass fires, to act as a deterrent.
- Raising awareness among the local community.
The project will run for a period of six weeks, with an official launch being held on Friday 1st April.
Chair of the Safer Caerphilly Community Safety Partnership, Superintendant Jon Burley said, "Project Bernie is an excellent initiative, based on the principles of education, diversion and enforcement. We are hopeful that by heavily involving the local community in this initiative, together with the vast amount of activity planned throughout the duration of the project, we will see a marked reduction in the number of deliberately set grass fires in the Bargoed area".
Cllr Rob Gough, Cabinet Member for Public Protection at Caerphilly County Borough Council said, "Project Bernie is very much about creating a permanent behavioural change in the local community. I would encourage as many people as possible to get involved in this project and help prevent deliberately set grass fires, which are not only extremely dangerous and scar our countryside, but also stretch fire crews to the limit".
Group Manager Rob Morris, Head of Community Safety and Partnerships for South Wales Fire and Rescue Service said, "South Wales Fire and Rescue Service is joining with the Police and its other partners to crack down on those who deliberately set fires. Anyone thinking about deliberately setting fire to the mountainside needs to realise that we will pull out all the stops to ensure that they are caught and could face prosecution".
He continued, "The people responsible for starting these fires need to understand that the fires severely damage much of the countryside surrounding their communities and they are putting lives in danger as it can take us a few minutes longer to respond to incidents in the towns and villages of South Wales if we are on top of a mountain tackling a forest fire".
Project Bernie is being run in Caerphilly county borough this year following a pilot in Tonypandy, Rhondda Cynon Taf last Easter. Throughout the duration of the project, hundreds of people of all ages engaged with the project, getting involved in the activities on offer and supporting the agencies involved.
The project resulted in significant reduction in deliberate grass fire setting in the Tonypandy area compared to the previous year.
Project Bernie uses 'Bernie' the cartoon sheep as its logo, together with the strapline 'Grass is green, Fire is mean', and is a partnership between the Safer Caerphilly Community Safety Partnership, South Wales Fire and Rescue Service, Caerphilly County Borough Council, Gwent Police, Wales Probation Trust and The Forestry Commission.
For further information on Project Bernie, please visit www.bernie.uk.com or call 01495 235 442.
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