Date: 20th June, 2022
This week, at the start of National Picnic Week (19-26 June), Dorset & Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service (DWFRS) is launching its wildfire prevention campaign – #BringAPicnicNotABBQ.
The campaign aims to remind the residents of Dorset and Wiltshire, as well as day trippers and holidaymakers, to take care in our beautiful open spaces this summer. During 2021, firefighters across Dorset and Wiltshire attended 494 wildfires and already in 2022, firefighters across the UK have attended more wildfires than in 2021*.
The Wareham Forest fire which occurred in May 2020, which is believed to have been started by a disposable barbecue, was one of the most devastating forest and heath fires in Dorset, in living memory. Firefighters, police officers, Forestry England rangers and many other partners were on the scene for over three weeks, working tirelessly in hot and arduous conditions to bring the major incident to a conclusion.
Disposable barbecues being left behind when still hot are a known cause of heath and forest 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 at Wareham Forest.
Assistant Chief Fire Officer Andy Cole said: “Firefighters, Control room operators and all staff from across Dorset & Wiltshire who supported the Wareham Forest fire and more recently the Canford Heath fire, worked extremely hard to bring these incidents to a safe conclusion. These incidents highlight just how devastating, and resource intensive, wildfires are. With nice weather hopefully on the way, it is only natural to want to go outdoors and enjoy it with friends and family, but it is also important to stay fire-aware when out and about. The idea behind the #BringAPicnicNotABBQ campaign is to remind those enjoying our countryside that bringing a picnic is a much safer option than having a barbecue.”
Inspector Danny Tamblyn, Dorset Police said: “Wildfires have a huge impact on the local community. When these incidents occur, not only are large areas of forest, heathland and its wildlife destroyed, road closures have to be put in place that inconvenience many people and firefighters risked their lives to tackle the blaze and bring it under control.
“We are joining our 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 to our nature and wildlife.”
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 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.”
Sophie Colley, Coordinator of Litter Free Dorset said: “This summer Litter Free Dorset are encouraging businesses across Dorset to choose to remove disposable BBQs from sale. Disposable BBQs are single use, non-recyclable and if littered are a big fire risk. Help us prevent incidents of fire and injury by choosing alternatives this summer – opt for a picnic instead!”
Paul Attwell, Operations Manager and the Urban Heaths Partnership said: “Fires, like the one at Wareham Forest or earlier this year on Canford Heath, are devastating to people, wildlife and property. 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.”
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