Deputy chief fire officer for Dyfed, Mr. Ieuan Evans, told the Guardian: “ We hope we'll have a good cloudburst to soak everything and bring to an end the pressure the Brigade is under at the moment. But unfortunately there's no sign of rain. We've been extremely busy and the men are all whacked.”
Mr. Evans said the full-time and retained firemen have been working non-stop for 24 hours a day and during the past week or so even off-duty firemen have been recalled.
“They volunteered to help out because of the unprecedented number of calls,” he said.
DANGER TO BUILDINGS
Mr. Evans said most of the fires had been grass and bracken. And beating them out had been had work.
“We are trying to do our utmost to conserve drinking water supplies from mains. We adopt other methods. If there are streams nearby we use them but even these are getting low. If there are no streams handy we use beaters.”
“Although the majority of fires have been gorse, grass, hedgerow and forestry, in several instances there has been danger of them spreading to nearby buildings.”
Worst hit area in the county, said Mr. Evans, is Llanelli.
Calls received at the Carmarthen headquarters have trebled since the beginning of August said Mr. Ieuan Evans and Dyfed Fire Service were now handling over 100 calls a day during a 24 hour period.
Not only has Ammanford fire station been inundated with calls averaging ten a day last weekend – but the men have also helped the hard pressed Llanelli brigade extinguish an extensive blaze on Pembrey mountain and last Thursday evening helped the neighbouring county of Powys fight a huge forest fire.
Said one local fireman jokingly: “I think my kids have forgotten what I look like. They haven't seen much of me lately.”
Mr. Ieuan Evans said that on behalf of Chief Fire Officer, Mr Glyn Walsh, he would like to pay tribute to the public for their “wonderful assistance.”
“Not only have they helped tackle fires but they have also provided badly needed refreshments to firemen.”
A REAL PASTING
Asked how long the men could carry on he replied: “They have had a real pasting, but I am convinced that they can keep going even at this pace.”
He said many householders had complained of being disturbed by the smell of smoke during the night with no sign of a fire in the immediate vicinity. This had been caused by smoke drifting from grass fires some miles away and it seemed more troublesome at night.
He appealed to the public, especially motorists, to be extremely careful when throwing away cigarette stubs and matches. Carelessness could set the tinder dry countryside alight in seconds.
He also asked children not to play with matches and appealed to everyone – “Don't burn rubbish.”
It is too early yet to assess the cost of all these fires to ratepayers. Said Mr. Evans: “I wouldn't like to discuss that problem. It will undoubtedly be a real headache for someone and will have to be assessed after this is all over.”
Ammanford firemen have been really earning their wage packets again at a spate of grass, gorse and hedgerow fires.
Since last Thursday they have been called to no less than 23 fires, some occurring within minutes of each other.
The biggest they had to contend with was on Sunday, when a large fire swept through the stores building of Saron Motors, Llwynadda Yard. Saron.
Firemen had to use breathing apparatus to combat the smoke and spent five and a half ours tackling the blaze.
The building contained vehicle spare parts, cause of the fire is not yet known.
They were also called to assist at a large forestry fire in Cwm Giedd, Ystradgynlais, on Friday.
On Thursday they attended three grass fires, two garden fires, one railway embankment fire, one gorse and one hedgerow fire.
On Friday they dealt with four fires including one in Capel Hendre when builders waste material caught fire in a field at Clos-Yr-Hendre.
A further eight fires mainly grass, were extinguished on Saturday, but the next few days were relatively quiet with only one call on each.
Last week Ammanford firemen tackled 25 fires in all, again mainly grass, but these have become a bigger problem than usual because beaters have to be used instead of water.