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The Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service were called out to deal with a large grass fire at the Coed Cadw Woodland Trust’s Coed Maesmelin site near Skewen, Neath, on Wednesday 25 March, a blaze which was started deliberately. The fire took around 2 hours to extinguish and eventually consumed around half of the open space at this local wood.

Chris Matts, site manager for the Woodland Trust says: “It’s so depressing to think that, at this moment of national crisis, anyone would wish to do such a thing. This fire meant that teams from both the Fire Service and the Woodland Trust’s contractors needed to be out on site, risking the further spread of Covid-19. A large area of open ground was burned, destroying the eggs of ground nesting birds and causing huge harm to voles and other wildlife including small mammals, amphibians and reptiles.

“I’d like to thank the Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service for their swift response. If anyone has any knowledge of how the fire was started, can I urge them to contact the police. The next few days are forecast to remain dry and a severe wildfire alert is in place. So can I implore all walking visitors to our sites to be especially careful not to do anything which could cause a risk of fire.”

The fire at Coed Maesmelin is not the only grass fire the Fire and Rescue Service has dealt with in Wales in recent days. Station manager Richie Vaughan-Williams, arson reduction manager, Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service, said:

“Deliberately setting grass fires is illegal and irresponsible. They endanger lives within the local community, kill wildlife and use up the resources of the Fire and Rescue Service which could lead to a delay in attending a road traffic collision or a house fire. We are all being asked to help our NHS by staying at home to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

“Therefore, I would urge everyone to heed the Government’s advice and stay at home, observe social distancing and consider the public health implications of these fires during this already difficult time. We would like to appeal to you to help us and other essential services in preventing these incidents from occurring. If anybody has any information regarding these deliberately lit fires, please phone the police on 101.”

The Fire and Rescue Service also warned of the additional health risk fire smoke can pose for people with asthma and respiratory problems, especially heightened during the coronavirus outbreak.

Coed Maesmelin was acquired by the Woodland Trust in 1999 and was the 1000th wood to come into the charity’s care. A haven of ancient woodland within an otherwise urban landscape, it provides a wonderful woodland retreat for visitors. Mixed broadleaves and conifers shelter bluebells and herb-rich grassland. A public bridleway runs through the site. The wood boasts spring flowers, autumn colours and a waymarked walk and, like almost all of the woods in the charity’s care, is free for people to visit whenever they wish. In line with Government advice on staying at home except for one form of exercise a day, please only visit woods that are within walking distance of where you live.

Notes to editors

For media enquiries contact:

Rory Francis, PR and campaigns manager Wales, on 0343 770 5738, 07539 322678 or

Or the Woodland Trust press office on 01476 581121 or

Woodland Trust (Coed Cadw)is the largest woodland conservation charity in the UK. It has over 500,000 supporters. It wants to see a UK rich in native woods and trees for people and wildlife. The Trust has three key aims:

  1. protect ancient woodland which is rare, unique and irreplaceable
  2. restoration of damaged ancient woodland, bringing precious pieces of our natural history back to life
  3. plant native trees and woods with the aim of creating resilient landscapes for people and wildlife.

Established in 1972, the Woodland Trust now has over 1,200 sites in its care covering approximately 29,000 hectares. These include over 100 sites in Wales, with a total area of 2,897 hectares (7,155 acres). Access to its woods is free so everyone can benefit from woods and trees. The Trust’s Welsh language name, Coed Cadw, is an old Welsh term, used in medieval laws to describe protected or preserved woodland.