30 March 2012>
An innovative project aimed at reducing the incidence of deliberate grass fire setting, which last year generated 'hot' results is back again for a second year!
Project Bernie, which aims to reduce the number of deliberate grass fires in and the Bargoed area over the Easter holiday period, is back - after seeing a huge 22% reduction in deliberate grass fires in the Bargoed area during the same period last year.
The project was unveiled by the Safer Caerphilly Community Safety Partnership at a special event on Friday (23rd March) where in just four hours, more than 700 people signed the 'Bernie pledge' to not set grass fires!
Project Bernie uses a combination of social marketing techniques in education and enforcement to address the issue of deliberate grass fires – an issue which traditionally sees a rapid increase during the Easter holiday period, 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 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, and will involve young people from Bargoed and the surrounding areas.
Rob Hartshorn, Head of Public Protection at Caerphilly County Borough Council welcomed the return of Project Bernie. He said, "This excellent project, based on the principles of education, diversion and enforcement generated outstanding results during the six weeks it ran last year, and we are hoping for similar results again this year".
He continued, "Project Bernie is very much about creating a permanent behavioural change, and I would encourage as many people as possible to get involved in this project again this year and help prevent deliberately set grass fires in our county borough".
Group Manager Rob Morris, Head of Community Safety and Partnerships for South Wales Fire and Rescue Service said, "The people responsible for starting these types of 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 Caerphilly county borough if we are on top of a mountain tackling a forest fire".
He continued, "Project Bernie has proven a huge success previously in tackling this criminal and anti-social behaviour providing very pleasing results and I am very hopeful of a similar outcome again this year".
Gwent Police Superintendent Jon Burley said: "The Bernie project has already proven that it can help to modify the behaviours of young people away from the risky and criminal behaviour of lighting fires on grass land within our communities. When this operation ran last year, we saw a reduction in the number of incidents of anti-social behaviour as well as intentional arson attacks on our mountains. Bernie's educational and fun element will run during the Easter Holidays and I encourage all teenagers in the area to get involved."
Project Bernie uses 'Bernie' the cartoon sheep as its logo, together with the strapline 'Grass is green, Fire is mean'.
For further information on the project, or to get involved in any of the 'Project Bernie' activities, please visit www.bernie.uk.com
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