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What makes people start wildfires in Wales?wfiw_photo04.jpgwfiw_photo01.jpg

Burnt ground on Baglan Mountain (Mynydd Dinas Block) overlooking M4 and Port Talbot, May 2009wfiw_photo03.jpg
View of Baglan Mountain burn showing proximity of fire spread to Corlannau and surrounding houses, May 2009




Wildfires are a persistent, widespread, costly and potentially dangerous issue in South Wales. Between 2000 and 2008 there were over 55,000 recorded grass fires and nearly 550 forest fires in the region. Forest Research used geospatial mapping and qualitative techniques (interviews, observation, surveys) to characterise and understand the problem of wildfires, focusing on the social factors behind the issue.

Key findings and recommendations


  • Areas of relative socio-economic deprivation are more prone to experiencing wildfires
  • The peak fire season is generally between March and May
  • Over 60% of wildfires occur between 4pm and midnight
  • Current mitigation strategies are either ‘educational’ or ‘operational’
  • Low public awareness – people might recognise that wildfires are started deliberately, but they do not think the issue is particularly important
  • Most people think young people set fires, although residents tend to blame farmers and landowners
  • Understanding the motivations of different firesetter types is key to effective intervention


  • Increase awareness
  • Improve partnerships between organisations to address the causes
  • Resource mitigation strategies adequately
  • Focus prevention on areas of high incidence rather than as a blanket approach across the region
  • Low-key response to some wildfires may reduce the thrill factor for young perpetrators
  • Create financial partnerships between landowners and the fire service to share the cost of helicopter provision
  • Deliver anti-wildfire education through local community organisations

Publications and presentations

Funders and partners

Funded and supported by Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service, South Wales Fire and Rescue Service and Forestry Commission Wales.