AN ASSEMBLY member has called on the Welsh Government to make clear that people who start fires – which have cost the fire service at least £60,000 this month – will be prosecuted.

South Wales East AM William Graham said the wildfires that have been set alight across Gwent are “outrageous”. We reported yesterday on the wildfire which burned an area equivalent to five football pitches near Barrack Hill, Newport, on Monday, which was a suspected arson attack.

Mr Graham said: “They are not natural, they are actually started by somebody. It is difficult to understand the mentality of the people.”

He has raised the issue of deliberate grass fires twice in the Assembly over the past month.

He added: “The fire chiefs do their best. But the minister’s got to say this is what we’re going to do and if they get caught they should be prosecuted.”

A spokesman for South Wales Fire and Rescue Service (SWFRS) said they had responded to 31 grass fires across Gwent in April and that 28 of them had been deliberately started.

In Blaenau Gwent, of 14 grass fires put out – 13 were deliberately started. In Caerphilly, nine have been put out and all of them were deliberate. There have been four in both Newport and Torfaen. In both areas three were deliberate.

There have been no grass fires in Monmouthshire this month.

Head of SWFRS’ fire crime unit, Dewi Jones, said: “Historically SWFRS encounter a huge rise in the number of grass fires over the Easter period every year which coincides with the school holidays.

“SWFRS have launched a campaign in conjunction with its partners in order to educate, identify and prosecute those responsible for deliberately starting these fires. The fires cause untold damage to the countryside and wildlife and leaves ugly black scars on our landscape.

“We urge the public to support our initiative and identify those responsible for these crimes.”

The Argus reported yesterday that the average cost of an attendance from the fire service is £1,970.

Yesterday the Welsh Government announced it would provide £3.3 million to Welsh fire and rescue authorities to improve fire safety.