Bernie is back!

Project Bernie, now in its fourth year, uses a combination of education, diversion, prevention and enforcement to address the issue of deliberate grass fires - an issue which traditionally sees an increase during the Easter holiday period and that has the potential to affect South Wales' fire crews' ability to respond to other emergencies. Deliberately set grass fires have resulted in crews being stretched considerably in previous years.

The six week project, which is focused in the Bargoed area, was unveiled by the Safer Caerphilly Community Safety Partnership earlier today (Friday 28th March) at a special event at Morrisons in Bargoed, where in just 2 hours, more than 470 people signed the 'Bernie pledge' to not set grass fires.

Project Bernie will focus on a number of key areas including:

  • Diversionary activities for young people to encourage positive behaviour - including becoming a 'Firefighter' for the day, theatrical make up workshops, DJ and rap workshops and much more
  • High visibility patrols - a number of agencies will provide a high profile presence in areas where this is traditionally a high level of grass fires, to act as a deterrent
  • General community awareness raising of the issue of deliberate grass fire setting

The project has been made possible this year thanks to funding from the Welsh Government's Youth Crime Prevention Fund and the Police and Crime Commissioner for Gwent, Ian Johnston, who helped officially launch the project earlier today.

Through his Partnership Fund the Police and Crime Commissioner for Gwent awarded South Wales Fire and Rescue Service and its partners with £12,000 to roll out Project Bernie throughout the whole of Gwent.

Highlighting the importance of funding the project, the Police and Crime Commissioner for Gwent, Ian Johnston, said: "The spate of deliberate grass and heath land fires in Gwent recently highlights exactly why projects such as this one are so essential. Young people need to realise that it's a criminal offence to deliberately start fires and they need to understand the implications and how costly and dangerous it is.

They are putting their own lives and the lives of other people at risk when they recklessly set fire to grass and heath land.

I funded this project because it specifically supports some of the priorities outlined in my police and crime plan which are to reduce and prevent crime, take more effective action to reduce anti-social behaviour and to protect people from serious harm."

Cllr David Poole, Cabinet Member for Community and Leisure Services said, "Project Bernie is very much about creating a permanent behavioural change through a combination of education, prevention and enforcement, and I am pleased that we are able to run this excellent project once again this year. I would encourage as many young people as possible to get involved in the activities on offer, and together we can continue to help prevent deliberately set grass fires in our county borough".

Group Manager, Dewi Jones, Head of the Fire Crime Unit said, "Project Bernie is a multi-agency collaborate project which is community focused, and whose aim is reducing deliberate fire setting and associated anti-social behaviour that blights our communities every year. Deliberate fire setting is a criminal offence; it scars our landscape and anyone partaking in this behaviour will be liable for prosecution. I call upon the support of the community to partake in the activities on offer and report any instances of deliberate fire setting to help eradicate this crime".

Caerphilly Partnership Sergeant, Rob Davies explains: "We are delighted to work with partners to protect our environment. We want people to use the countryside responsibly and want them to know that if fires are set, that the Police will take a robust stance with those involved in arson.

"Our countryside is beautiful and I would ask everyone to be alert to keep it that way. Project Bernie is focused upon the greater Bargoed area but the whole of the Caerphilly county borough will be policed to ensure that, on behalf of everyone who works, lives and visits the borough, it remains as picturesque as we all want it to be."

Project Bernie uses 'Bernie' the cartoon sheep as its logo, together with the strapline 'Grass is green, Fire is mean'.

For further information on the project, or to sign up to get involved in any of the 'Project Bernie' activities, please visit www.bernie.uk.com