This week is national picnic week, so Dorset & Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service (DWFRS) is taking advantage and asking people to take picnics on their days out, rather than BBQs, to help prevent wildfires.
In 2021, firefighters across Dorset and Wiltshire attended 494 wildfires and already in 2022, firefighters across the UK have attended more wildfires than last year.
Disposable barbecues left behind when still hot are a known cause of heath and forest fires, as are campfires and, as a result, both barbecues and fires are banned on heathland, in forests and in many other high risk areas across Dorset.
Recent fires, such as the Wareham Forest fire in May 2020, which was believed to have been started by a disposable barbecue, and the Canford Heath fire earlier this year have had a huge impact on the community, by drawing in local resources, as well as destroying wildlife.
Assistant Chief Fire Officer Andy Cole said: “Firefighters, control room operators and all staff from across Dorset & Wiltshire who supported the Wareham Forest fire and more recently the Canford Heath fire, worked extremely hard to bring these incidents to a safe conclusion. These incidents highlight just how devastating, and resource intensive, wildfires are. With nice weather hopefully on the way, it is only natural to want to go outdoors and enjoy it with friends and family, but it is also important to stay fire-aware when out and about.”
Inspector Danny Tamblyn, from Dorset Police said: “Wildfires have a huge impact on the local community. When these incidents occur, not only are large areas of forest, heathland and its wildlife destroyed, road closures have to be put in place that inconvenience many people and firefighters risked their lives to tackle the blaze and bring it under control.
“We are joining our emergency service colleagues and partner agencies to remind the public to protect our environment this summer and avoid having fires or barbecues on our heathland or forests. The effect can be devastating to our nature and wildlife.”
Wildlife ranger for Forestry England, Mark Warn, said: “Wareham Forest is one of the most important places in the UK for nature and conservation, with much of the wildlife found here having already disappeared from other parts of the country. It is one of the few places where it is still possible to find all six of the UK’s native reptiles, including the endangered smooth snake and sand lizard, and it is home to many rare species of birds and insects.
“The wildfire here showed how somewhere as special as this can be so quickly devastated by one careless act. We all have a role in preventing wildfires and one of the simplest ways is to leave the BBQ at home, they are not permitted and not welcome in the forest.”
Operations manager at the Urban Heaths Partnership, Paul Attwell, said: “Fires, like the one at Wareham Forest or earlier this year on Canford Heath, are devastating to people, wildlife and property. Working in partnership we are trying to reduce the number and size of such incidents but we won’t succeed without the help of everyone who visits these sites, so we ask that you bring a picnic not a BBQ and if you see a fire then get to safety and call 999, don’t wait for someone else to make the call.”
Coordinator of Litter Free Dorset, Sophie Colley, said: “This summer Litter Free Dorset are encouraging businesses across Dorset to choose to remove disposable BBQs from sale. Disposable BBQs are single use, non-recyclable and, if littered, are a big fire risk. Help us prevent incidents of fire and injury by choosing alternatives this summer – opt for a picnic instead!”
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