An ex-nature reserve team member claims his warnings about fires in Parc Natur Penglais fell on deaf ears before a major blaze.
Aberystwyth resident David Kirby, who used to be a member of the park’s support team, said more fires will surely follow if action isn’t taken.
A wildfire in Parc Natur Penglais (PNP) broke out at around 4.52pm on Friday, 9 June and led to road closures and evacuations while crews spent more than 30 hours tackling the blaze.
Although the cause of last week’s fire is unclear, Mr Kirby says encampments, anti-social behaviour and litter problems significantly raise the risk of a further blaze – especially with temperatures forecast to reach scorching levels.
He said that he reported tents and debris to the PNP Support Group and to a Ceredigion County Council cabinet member twice and only received a response eventually from a council officer more than two weeks later.
He also reported a fire on 7 June that he says was started by concentrated sunlight on a bottle of alcoholic spirits left at a litter-strewn encampment. The minor blaze was luckily extinguished by a passer-by.
“The council needs to have greater control over rubbish at PNP,” Mr Kirby said.
“I think what needs to happen is that the fire brigade must put a fire break in place – with the gorse a particular problem.
“Things have got to change. We have to accept that with climate change these things are going to happen more and more.
“So, we need a new strategy on fire control and the rubbish in the park. No one took any action about the problem site I complained about.
“There are no fires or camping notices at most Parc entrances. I wondered if one could be erected near the problem area.”
A spokesperson for the county council, whose responsibility it is to maintain the reserve, said prior to the fire: “We are aware camping takes place on many of our Local Nature Reserves and wildlife sites. The Conservation Team has called for discussions across council services and with other agencies to agree a unified response.
"As the lead body for our Local Nature Partnership, the council manages Parc Natur Penglais but we rely on the goodwill of the public, the dedication and generosity of volunteers to help us maintain our nature reserves and green spaces in good and safe condition.
"We urge the public to use our centralised reporting system to ensure that incidents of this kind are properly recorded and reported. Please contact Clic on 01545 570881 or by emailing [email protected].
“The public are urged to stick to official campsites, always take litter home and to take care in hot, dry weather to avoid causing wildfires.”
It added: "Ceredigion County Council would like to thank the firefighters from MWWFRS who responded so promptly to the fire at Parc Natur Penglais on Friday, 9 June, and we await the result of their investigations into the cause of the fire.
"We would also like to thank Local Authority staff who volunteered to arrange and run the temporary rest centre which was opened for residents displaced by the fire, and soon shut down later that evening.
"The council continues to work with partner organisations to tackle issues that arise in green areas. We would remind the public to take care and be responsible when it comes to litter, lighting fires or leaving material that can lead to fires."