Heatwave conditions have prompted a warning over wildfires and the use of Chinese lanterns during National Parks Week (July 29-August 4).
Every year, fire destroys thousands of acres of countryside, parkland and wildlife habitats and although some are started deliberately, Hampshire Fire & Rescue say that most of them are due to carelessness.
The risk of a fire is currently very high, which has led to a renewed awareness campaign during National Parks Week.
In a press release, Hampshire Fire & Rescue say that the recent heatwave has significantly heightened the wildfire risk and that they are concerned about the use of Chinese lanterns. These fly uncontrollably, wherever the breeze takes them, and aren’t always extinguished when they crash-land.
Hampshire still has some of the most picturesque countryside in the UK, including the Country Parks and other open spaces within the Borough of Eastleigh and the New Forest National Park. The weather has now been very hot and mostly dry for several weeks, leaving all vegetation vulnerable to fire.
Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service’s head of community safety, Area Manager Steve Foye said:
“We are currently experiencing some fantastic summer weather and it is only natural to want to go outdoors and enjoy it with family and friends.”
“We’re just asking the public to be extra vigilant and follow a few simple steps, such as extinguishing cigarettes properly and not throwing them on the ground or out of car windows.”
“Avoid open fires in the countryside, unless you’re in a safe designated area. We do not support the use of Chinese lanterns and ask members of the public and event organisers to refrain from using them.”
“Clear away bottles, glasses and any broken glass to avoid them magnifying the sun and if you do see a fire, don’t attempt to tackle it yourself. Call 999 and leave the area as quickly as possible.”
Firefighters from Rushmoor, where more than a third of fire calls are related to fires in open grassed areas, are carrying out regular wildfire patrols throughout June, July and August to raise awareness of the dangers.
Nicely illustrating how wildfires are also a significant risk in built-up areas, six fire crews recently attended a rapidly spreading grass fire on Peartree Common, Southampton, after a 999 call was received. An area of heath and gorseland, measuring about 200m by 400m, was destroyed. As the fire spread, nearby properties in Sea Road, Bryanston Road and Osterlily Road were evacuated by Police.
Incident Commander Mickey Smithers said:
“Our firefighters worked quickly to dampen down the flames and surround the fire to stop further spreading, whilst working in extremely hot conditions.”
“Fires in open areas spread very quickly, particularly in the dry, hot conditions that we have had recently. We encourage the public to dispose of cigarettes, barbeques and glass appropriately”.
“No one was injured during the incident, but many of the habitats on Peartree Common have been destroyed”
Although some rain and thunderstorms are now forecast, landowners and land managers are encouraged to ensure fire breaks are cut and well maintained, with any cut grasses and vegetation removed from the site. .
Further advice about outdoor safety can be found at http://www.hantsfire.gov.uk/yoursafety/onholiday/countryside.htm