Fire service issue heathland fire safety appeal

controlled burning

Published Thursday 13 April 2017

Firefighters are issuing an appeal for people to stay safe while enjoying the New Forest this weekend.

As thousands of people prepare to go camping, have barbecues and enjoy the county’s beauty spots, Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service are reminding people to follow the countryside code.

The warm weather over Easter saw a spike in fires in the open across Hampshire including a blaze on Yateley Common in the north of the county that destroyed six hectares of heathland.

Fires can cause devastating damage to woodland, wildlife and property, but more importantly they also put lives at risk.

Nigel Matthews, Head of Recreation Management and Learning at the New Forest National Park Authority, said: 'With more people out in the forest enjoying sunnier spring days over the coming weeks, it is important that people are aware of the dangers of wildfires in the New Forest, especially in the open areas of heathland.

'Please don’t use barbecues away from car parks as even the smallest ember or spark could cause a dangerous fire which would destroy wildlife habitats and endanger people’s homes.'

BBQs and fire: To reduce the risk of damaging wildfires, campfires are not permitted without the landowner’s permission. Disposable BBQs are welcome at Bolderwood, Blackwater and Wilverley where stands and water are available. Raised non-disposable BBQs are allowed on the hard-standing areas of car parks, providing water is available. You can hire fixed stand party-sized BBQs from the Forestry Commission (call 0300 067 4601), and two barbecue sites are available for hire at Lepe Country Park provided by Hampshire County Council (please book in advance at: www.hants.gov.uk/lepe).

Many blazes are caused by carelessly discarded cigarettes. Do not dispose of cigarettes in the countryside. Dispose of smoking materials properly.

Another risk is that the heat from the sun can be magnified through bottles, glasses and broken glass, you should always take any rubbish home with you.

Take extra care when using camp fires or barbecues. Never leave these unattended and only light them in safe, designated areas, away from trees and shrubs.

Any signs of fire or illegal fire setting should be immediately reported. 

Group Manager Jerry Leonard said: 'Here in Hampshire we are lucky to have stunning countryside, forests and woodland.

'However, the recent warm weather in the build up to the bank holiday weekend means that our countryside is very dry and more people are gearing up to go camping and set up barbecues and camp fires.

'Unfortunately this time of year we also see a rise in illegal fire setting, which is why we urge anyone who suspects or witnesses a fire being started to report this to the police.

'By respecting the countryside and our county’s open spaces we can create a safe place for all to enjoy.'

People should not attempt to tackle a fire too large to be extinguished by a bucket of water or put themselves at risk.

Members of the public should never put themselves at risk trying to take photographs or videos. They should call 999 immediately and give as much information as possible, and evacuate the area.

Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service work with the National Park Authority, Forestry Commission and Hampshire Constabulary to protect the countryside and ensure everyone can enjoy it safely.

Media contact

Simon Carr
External Communications Officer, Hampshire Fire and Rescue
Tel: 02380 626812
Email: simon.carr@hantsfire.gov.uk
Web: www.hantsfire.gov.uk

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