The Assembly Member for the Rhondda has questioned the Welsh Government over the spate of local grassfires recently.
Leanne Wood said the constant threat of severe grassfires in the Rhondda should have meant Porth fire station was retained instead of being closed two years. During an emergency question in plenary, the Penygraig-based Plaid Cymru Leader said an “opportunity was missed” by the South Wales Fire and Rescue Service and the Welsh Government to save Porth station. The premises have since been turned into a car sales business.
She also called for a relaxation on the restrictions for controlled burning that fire-fighters carry out as part of their preventative measures to ensure fires are not allowed to spread too far. Regulations only allow fire-fighters to carry out controlled burning until 31 March. The wet weather through much of February and March meant fire-fighters have been hampered in these preventative methods.
In the past fortnight, huge grassfires have raged in Cwmparc, Tonypandy and Penrhys, leaving fire-fighters working flat-out to bring them under control.
During an emergency question before Carl Sargeant, Cabinet Secretary for Communities and Children with responsibility for the fire service in Wales, Ms Wood said: “I attended a briefing last week where firefighters informed me of the specific issues pertaining to the Rhondda, and of the sterling work that they’re doing to prevent fires through education, and also through their introduction of fire breaks, and the work that they do once the fires are raging.
“But more does need to done. And one thing that was suggested to me that could help is that if the restrictions on setting fires on the tops of the mountains could be relaxed. At the moment, the firefighters are able to put fire breaks in, but because of the bad weather they’ve been unable to do so. And the restrictions mean that they’re only allowed to do that up until 31 March. So, if there’s any relaxation of the legislation there, I think that that would be useful if it could be looked at.”
She added: “And then, finally, I wanted to raise the issue of Porth fire station, which was closed in July 2015. Before it was closed, I urged the Welsh Government to intervene and save the fire station on the grounds of public safety. Intervention to stop the closure is allowed under those circumstances, but that opportunity was missed at that time.
“I very much hope, Minister, that you will reflect on that missed opportunity, and act accordingly should a similar situation arise in the future.”
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