Guest blog: Leah Taylor, Fire Crime Practitioner

My name is Leah Taylor, I’m 27 years old and I work for South Wales Fire and Rescue Service.

I am a Fire Crime Practitioner within the Community Safety Department and my post is funded by the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner for Gwent. The reason I took on this position was because I wanted to be a part of an organisation that really makes a difference within the community; something I certainly get from this job.

My role is to help communities as well as educating people on deliberate fires and anti-social behaviour, and the impact these have on their communities, the Fire & Rescue Service and partner agencies.

I work alongside a number of partner agencies to reduce and raise awareness around these issues, which can vary from illegal fly-tipping (that can fuel deliberate refuse fires), to deliberate wildfires, conducting arson vulnerability assessments on disused and derelict buildings (that have the potential to be set alight posing additional risk to our firefighters) and, also, supporting victims of domestic violence.

At domestic violence referrals I support the victim by target hardening their property to increase their safety and wellbeing it they have had a threat of arson, hate crime or anti-social behaviour made against them.

My working day varies enormously but generally consists of delivering presentations to schools of various age groups, attending problem solving groups with other agencies on how to best tackle issues impacting on the communities of Gwent and carrying out engagement activities within the community.

I find these forms of engagement very rewarding and they definitely have an impact as we have seen fires in the areas we have worked in significantly decrease.

Since the Covid19 stay at home guidance we have unfortunately seen an increase in deliberate wildfires. This is highly likely to be as a result of the schools being closed and the nice weather we have been experiencing. My team and I have now started our patrols earlier than normal; we normally commence these immediately prior to the Easter holidays. These are high visibility patrols in our hotspot areas and we have support from our police colleagues which we can call upon to assist us during these patrols. Once again due to Covid19 we have had to adapt our patrols to follow social distancing guidelines.

We have also experienced an increase in deliberate refuse fires. The possible link here could be due to more people staying home and reduced services introduced at waste and recycling centres. We advise people to follow local authority and Government guidelines in waste disposal and always use a registered waste carrier to dispose of your waste. We also ask that you inform our control room on 01268 909407 if you are going to have a controlled burn on private property, so it doesn’t result in an unwanted fire appliance mobilisation.

It’s important to recognise that even though we have had an increase in these incidents lately, the data for these incident types suggests that we are still attending significantly lower numbers than the same period last year, which is pleasing for me as I can see the positive impact my role is having on improving the wellbeing of the residents of Gwent.

I am extremely grateful and proud that I get to work for such a great organisation, and get to make a difference on a daily basis within the communities of Gwent.