UNITED KINGDOM – Dorset residents are being asked to help protect their countryside by being extra cautious about the risks of wildfires during this dry spell.
An amber wildfire alert is set to be in place for at least the next week and the Dorset and Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service is asking the public to be vigilant and follow a few simple steps to help reduce the chance of a wildfire in the countryside during this period.
A fire service spokesperson said: “We are currently experiencing dry weather and it is only natural to want to go outdoors and enjoy it with members of your household, but it is also important to stay fire-aware when out and about.”
Residents are being asked to:
Extinguish cigarettes properly, don’t throw cigarette ends on the ground or out of car windows – take your litter home.
Avoid open fires in the countryside. If you must have them, then ensure they are fully extinguished before leaving them unattended.
If you see a fire in the countryside, report it immediately to the Fire & Rescue Service. Early detection can prevent it from developing into a large wildfire incident.
When calling the Fire and Rescue Service, get to a safe place and note the fire location before dialling 999. Then meet the Fire and Rescue Service at the entrance and never attempt to tackle fires that can’t be put out with a bucket of water, instead leave the area as quickly as possible.
Landowners and land managers are also advised, where possible, to be prepared for fires and ensure that fire breaks are cut and well maintained with any cut grasses and vegetation removed from the site.
A spokesperson for the service added: “Large wildfires are thankfully rare but, when they do occur, they can be very serious and affect large areas of the countryside. They also take a great deal of resources to bring under control, which impacts the availability of appliances for property fires and other emergencies.
“The Upton Heath fire in Dorset in 2011, for example, damaged approximately 250 acres of the heath and required the mobilisation of 30 fire engines and 11 Land Rovers.
“Wildfires can ravish the local wildlife, destroying ecosystems in a matter of hours that have taken years to build up. If a wildfire encroaches upon farmland, then crops and farm buildings can be consumed, and homes that border heathland can also be at risk.
“At their worst, wildfires can cause death or injury to people. A developed wildfire creates its own wind, which drives it at speeds faster than people can get out of its way.”