Wildfire warning: ‘take extra care due to increased fire risk’

CLA South East is calling on the public to take extra care in the countryside due to the increased fire risk, especially on hillsides, moors and heathland as warm, dry, and settled conditions have elevated wildfire conditions across large swathes of the country.

For more than a week fire crews have been tackling blazes near Saddleworth Moor, Tameside, while in the South East about 100 firefighters were called to a 500 sq m field of grassland in Pump Lane South, Little Marlow, Buckinghamshire, after a fire spread to nearby industrial units. The A404 was closed in both directions due to smoke billowing across the road on Monday.

Wildfires have the capability to devastate farmland, wildlife and also pose a risk to the lives of people living and working in rural and adjacent communities.

Reducing the risk of wildfires is key at this time of the year, and raising awareness is one way in which the risk can be reduced.

Wildfires can be prevented by not discarding cigarettes or other smoldering material. The same can be said for litter as quite often bottles and shards of glass can spark a fire.

Some CLA members have highlighted the increased fire risk associated with disposable barbeques that are used in the countryside, urging the visiting public not to barbeque in rural areas. Barbeques should only take place in sheltered areas well away from combustible material, and properly extinguished afterwards.

The CLA has also long called for the ban on sky lanterns as these pose a serious risk of fire, especially in the countryside. At present the Government is unwilling to introduce a ban as they do not consider the dangers significant enough, despite animal deaths and fires as a result of sky lanterns.

CLA South East represents thousands of landowners, farmers and rural businesses in Kent, Hampshire, Surrey, Sussex, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire and the Isle of Wight.

Regional Director Robin Edwards said: “We have witnessed the devastating impacts of the recent fires, both on communities as well as scarring the landscape and destroying wildlife, and we appeal to the public to be extra vigilant when out and about in the countryside.”

Rob Gazzard, Chairman of the South East England Wildfire Group, said: “If you find a wildfire, do four things.

“First get to a place of safety, then dial 999 and ask for the fire and rescue service.

“Tell fire control about the location of the fire, its size and any other relevant information.

“Finally meet the fire and rescue service at a pre-arranged entrance point, direct them to the fire and be on hand to provide other information. Be #wildfireaware.”