By Ruth Bateman, the Arson Reduction Manager at North Wales Fire and Rescue Service.

As we move out of winter and into spring, a lot of my work will focus on trying to prevent and reduce the number of countryside fires we attend.

During drier periods, fires involving grass, bracken and heather can develop very quickly, especially in raised winds, resulting in fires getting out of control and spreading to neighbouring properties or forestry, with the need for the fire and rescue service to be called out to extinguish them.

I’ve been there tackling these fires many times myself – and I can tell you that these types of fires are incredibly resource hungry and prevent crews from attending incidents elsewhere where rescues are required.

Many farmers take the opportunity to undertake controlled burning of heather, grass bracken and gorse on their land - but I want to remind them that they should not continue this the practice beyond the controlled burning season.

The season comes to an end on March 31 - in the meantime I’d continue to urge people to inform us of any plans to undertake burns. On the day of the intended burn landowners need to have a burn plan in place and inform fire and rescue service control on 01931 522 006 of the location of the burn. This will prevent time and resources being wasted by the fire service attending a controlled fire. An important reminder for you and your wallet - it is against the law to burn outside of the burning season and can result in penalties of up to £1,000.

I’d also urge visitors to the countryside to take extra care when they are out and about and reduce the risk of accidental fires. Make sure that any smoking materials are put out properly and if you are out camping, again make sure that campfires or barbecues are fully extinguished.

I would also like to take the opportunity to reinforce our messages that while accidents can happen, there are others within our communities who are deliberately setting fire to our countryside – not only is this a crime, for which they will be prosecuted, but it also places unnecessary pressure on front line services and puts our communities in harm’s way. I would encourage anyone with information relating to such crimes to call 101, or to report anonymously to CrimeStoppers on 0800 555 111.

With more people enjoying our wonderful countryside and the prospect of more people opting for a staycation this year, it is more important than ever that we work together to eliminate grass fires and protect our communities and our environment.