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. The Upton Heath fire in 2011 damaged approximately 250 acres of the heath and required the mobilisation of 30 fire engines and 11 Land Rovers.
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 open fires in the countryside. If you must have a fire, make sure that you’re in a designated safe area.
- Put out cigarettes and other smoking materials properly before you leave your vehicle.
- Do not throw cigarette ends out of your vehicle. They could start a fire and destroy surrounding countryside.
- If you see a fire in the countryside, report it immediately. Do not tackle a fire yourself, unless it can be put out with a bucket of water. Please call the fire service and leave the area as soon as possible.
- Ensure that you know your location or a landmark so you can direct the fire service.
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.
Advice for landowners
Through controlled management of planting schemes and firebreaks, the risk of a wildfire starting can be reduced and the effects of a ‘going’ wildfire can be restricted.
Fire spreads at different rates through different vegetation so, by managing the planting, the rate of fire spread can be slowed to give fire crews extra time to get resources in place.
A best practice guide has been produced by the Forestry Commission, giving further information about the causes of wildfires, their behaviours and the steps that landowners can take to prevent or mitigate them.
Find out more about being a Firewise Community through the Urban Heaths Partnership.