When you are out and about enjoying the countryside, there are some things you can do in order to protect our beautiful surroundings and keep you safe.
Large wildfires are thankfully rare but, when they do occur, they can be very serious and affect large areas of the countryside. They also take a great deal of resources to bring under control, which impacts the availability of appliances for property fires and other emergencies.
The Wareham Forest fire in 2020 affected approx. 220 hectares of heath and woodland, and saw firefighters from all 50 of our fire stations involved in an incident that lasted over two weeks:
Wildfires can ravish the local wildlife, destroying ecosystems in a matter of hours that have taken years to build up. If a wildfire encroaches upon farmland, then crops and farm buildings can be consumed, and homes that border heathland can also be at risk.
At their worst, wildfires can cause death or injury to people. A developed wildfire creates its own wind, which drives it at speeds faster than people can get out of its way.
Steps you can take to avoid starting a wildfire:
- Avoid having open fires or using barbecues in the countryside.
- Barbecues and campfires are banned in many country parks, campsites and open spaces. Make sure you check what is and isn’t allowed where you are, and follow the rules.
- 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 (What3Words can help if you’re not sure)
- call 999
- meet the Fire & Rescue Service at the entrance.
- Don’t attempt to tackle fires that can’t be put out with a bucket of water – leave the area as quickly as possible.
Advice for landowners
Landowners and land managers are advised, where possible, to be prepared for fires and ensure that fire breaks are cut and well maintained, with any cut grasses and vegetation removed from the site.
If you must have an open fire:
- Never use petrol, it can ignite quickly and soon get out of control. Only use approved lighting fuels.
- Make sure it is downwind and at least 10 metres away from any buildings or structures.
- Clear dry vegetation, such as leaves, to form a circle of earth around the fire.
- Never leave fires unattended and make sure they are fully extinguished after use.
- If you have to burn vegetation or have a bonfire, please advise Fire Control by calling 0306 799 0019 first.
- During hot/dry weather, it is advised not to undertake controlled or prescribed burning unless you have the means to fully control it yourself. Ideally, do not conduct prescribed fire or swailing during any period of elevated wildfire risk.
The Forestry Commission has guidance to ensure a consistent approach to planning and assessing proposals for deforestation, and the wildfire risk resulting from those proposals. Click here for more.
Find out more about being a Firewise Community through the Urban Heaths Partnership.
Sam’s Sad Day
Sam’s Sad Day is a story about a sand lizard whose home is destroyed by a wildfire. You can watch one of our firefighters reading the story here. Once you have read the story, you can test the children’s understanding and recall using the Sam’s Sad Day questions worksheet (the answer sheet is provided).
The children can write their own story about a wild creature whose home is destroyed by a wildfire.
For other resources or ideas about fire safety for children, visit our education section.