Don’t scorch our heathlands in these scorching temperatures

The Urban Heaths Partnership (UHP), Litter Free Dorset (LFD) and Dorset & Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service (DWFRS) are working together to raise awareness of the risk of wildfires on heathland and forests during the soaring summer temperatures.

You might see large banners around these sites reminding everyone of the risks, these are a key action to remind all visitors that campfires and barbeques are not allowed on heathland sites.

Heathlands and forests, unfortunately, often suffer from incidents of wildfire – whether deliberate or accidental – and these are becoming more common. On average, Dorset is subject to 107 heathland and forest wildfires a year. Disposable barbecues being left behind when still hot are a known cause of these fires, as are campfires.

This campaign aims to reduce this risk by encouraging people to choose alternatives. It also highlights that barbecues and fires are banned on heathland, in forests and in many other high risk areas across Dorset, including Wareham Forest where a fire in 2020 started from disposable barbeques devastated 220 hectares of forest and heathland.

UHP is joining with 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 not only to our nature and wildlife, but to nearby homes and properties too.

Mark Warn, Wildlife Ranger, Forestry England, 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 in 2020 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.”

Group Manager Dave Adamson from Dorset & Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service said: “While the warm, dry weather forecast for the coming days is most welcome, especially with the summer holidays arriving, it does significantly increase the risk of wildfire. Disposable barbecues left behind while still hot, and campfires that aren’t extinguished properly, are common causes of fires in the open, so we would urge people not to use these while out and about in our beautiful countryside.”

Paul Attwell, Team Manager at Urban Heaths Partnership said: “Heathland fires are devastating to people, wildlife and property, and 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.”

You can find more information about the BBQ campaign on the Urban Heaths Partnership website.

For more information about the bring a picnic campaign, please visit the Dorset & Wiltshire Fire Service #BringAPicnicNotABBQ webpage.

The Firewise project seeks to help communities living close to heathland to mitigate the risk posed by wildfires to their properties.

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