Date: 26th June, 2019
A new initiative to help communities who live close to areas at risk of wildfire has been launched in Dorset.
Firewise UK is based upon the international Firewise programme run by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) of America. Organised locally by the Urban Heaths Partnership, it provides information for homeowners who live close to areas at risk from wildfire to help them recognise and reduce their risk by taking practical and inexpensive steps.
The project encourages communities to work together, in and around their homes and gardens, to reduce the risk of wildfire to their local area.
A launch event was hosted by Dorset & Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service (DWFRS) at Poole fire station on 21 June, with Chief Fire Officer Ben Ansell introducing the scheme to invited guests.
Amongst those present were members of the Fire and Rescue Authority, project organisers, and local people from Beacon Road in Corfe Mullen, which has become the first Firewise Community in Dorset. The residents were presented with a certificate of recognition by Matt Prosser, Chief Executive of Dorset Council.
The Firewise project is currently funded until March 2020 thanks to support from DWFRS, the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner in Dorset, and monies from developer contributions. Information has been produced in leaflet form and on webpages hosted by DWFRS.
CFO Ben Ansell said: “The Urban Heaths Partnership does a fantastic job in educating people about the risks of heath fires and what they can do as individuals to reduce that risk. Within our Service, we support this work and heathland bike patrols are now underway, using volunteers to monitor these vulnerable areas and speak to the community as they enjoy our open spaces. However, despite all of this, heath fires will still happen. Firewise recognises that truth and provides a framework against which local people can help to protect their own homes and land when fire strikes. Our priority is always to stop fires from happening in the first place; however, anything we can do to build resilience, educate and reassure residents who live close to areas of heathland is also extremely valuable. I was therefore delighted to officially declare the Firewise initiative up and running.”
Lin Kettley, Firewise Assistant at the Urban Heaths Partnership, added: “In Dorset, we average 107 fires on heathlands and forest every year, and this may increase with the effects of climate change. Much of our work is aimed at reducing fires on heathland, and this project encourages those living close to these areas to take a look at their properties and, with some simple steps, reduce the risk of fire to their homes.”