Exceptional weather prompts amber wildfire alert in Dorset

Wareham Forest fire
Firefighters from across the region spent weeks tackling a devastating forest fire in Wareham last summer, started by disposable barbecues

THIS week’s exceptionally hot weather has led to an amber wildfire alert being issued for the the Dorset & Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service area.

An amber alert means that, should a wildfire be experienced, it could spread quickly and easily due to the dry conditions. The risk is greatest on large areas of open land, such as heathlands, fields and even cliff-sides.

Group manager Darren Langdown said: “While the hot weather is very welcome after the recent rain, it does increase the risk of fires spreading quickly if something happens to cause ignition.

“We are urging local farmers to take extra care while cutting crops, as sparks from hot machinery can easily lead to a field catching fire, and we ask everyone enjoying our beautiful countryside and coastline to be extra careful with anything that could lead to a fire starting.”

Top tips for staying fire safe while out and about include:

  • Avoid having open fires or using barbecues in the countryside. Disposable barbecues and campfires are actually banned in many parts of Dorset.
  • Extinguish smoking materials properly, and don’t throw cigarette ends on the ground or out of car windows – take your litter home.
  • 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 & Rescue Service:
    • Get to a safe place
    • note the fire location (apps such as What3Words can help if you’re not sure)
    • call 999
    • meet the Fire & Rescue Service at the access point.
  • Don’t attempt to tackle fires that can’t be put out with a bucket of water – leave the area as quickly as possible.
  • If you’re at the beach, don’t set off flares, have campfires or light barbecues as these can easily lead to gorse and foliage on the cliffs catching fire.

Landowners and land managers are advised to be prepared for fires, where possible, and ensure that fire breaks are cut and well maintained, with any cut grasses and vegetation removed from the site.

Farmers are urged to keep their machinery well maintained, and to follow the service’s advice on staying fire safe, which can be found at www.dwfire.org.uk/fire-risks-on-farms

Mr Langdown added: “Dealing with wildfires is incredibly resource-intensive, and some can take days – and even weeks – to bring under control.

“Alongside the devastating impact on the countryside, such fires are also very costly, and yet they can be prevented if people heed the warnings and take care. We can all play a part in keeping Dorset and Wiltshire safe from fire.”

More information on staying safe and enjoying outside areas whilst avoiding starting a wildfire can be found at www.dwfire.org.uk/heath-fires-and-countryside-safety

Woodmead Halls

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