Fire service – ‘Think before lighting BBQs’

Fire service – ‘Think before lightingBBQs’

13 July 2006

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England, UK — Forest firefighters and foresters are calling on residents and visitors to take care this summer to prevent fires ravaging the heathland.

They say that any blaze on Forestry Commission land could pose a threat to property and lives after the area experienced its driest winter for more than a century.

Numbers of fires on the forest are already up on last year.

Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service was called to 159 fires in the forest in 2005 and already this year the crews have responded to 152.

Kevin Penfold, head of land management at the Forestry Commission, said a dry winter and spring had led to similar conditions to those experienced in 1976.

Ground conditions are so dry that not even a week of torrential rain could significantly reduce the fire risk.

He said among the most dangerous are fires that can smoulder underground for days before bursting into flames on the surface.

“What we want to do is get people to think before lighting barbecues.

“We would urge them to use the car parks that are provided for their use and to make sure they use the correct bins for disposal,” he said.

“The heathland is very valuable there are some rare plants, reptiles and birds.”

Ranger Zoe Khalaf added: “Acres of peat up to a metre down can catch fire before a blaze finally appears above ground.

“When it does, it can spread at terrifying speeds.”

The commission says it is important for the public to understand the danger and is calling on people to do all they can to help.

The commission will be posting current fire risk levels on its website

Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service crew manager Jim Green said: “It’s crucial that people do not start fires in the forest.

“Nor should they use barbecues anywhere except at the commission’s specially designated sites.

“Used coals should never be discarded until they have cooled down and then only in the bins provided for the purpose.

“Even the sunlight-focusing effect of a discarded bottle or a piece of glass could cause a catastrophe.

“You cannot be too careful if you are out in the forest.

“And you cannot ring the fire service too soon if you spot a blaze getting hold.”


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