The Urban Heath Partnership (UHP), Litter Free Dorset (LFD) and Dorset & Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service (DWFRS) are working together to raise awareness of the risk of wildfires on heathland and forests during the soaring summer temperatures. You might see large banners around these sites reminding everyone of the risks, these are a key action to remind all visitors that campfires and barbeques are not allowed on heathland sites. There are also yellow fire signs put out on roads approaching high risk areas.
Heathlands and forests, unfortunately, often suffer from incidents of wildfire – whether deliberate or accidental – and these are becoming more common. On average, Dorset is subject to 107 heathland and forest wildfires a year, and disposable barbecues are a known cause. 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 Wareham Forest where a fire in 2020 started from disposable barbeques devastated 220 hectares of forest and heathland.
UHP works alongside emergency service colleagues and partner agencies to remind the public to protect themselves and our environment this summer and avoid having fires or barbecues on our heathland or forests. The effect can be devastating not only to our nature and wildlife, but to any site visitor and nearby homes and properties too.
Assistant Chief Fire Officer Andy Cole said: “Disposable barbecues being left behind when still hot are a known cause of heath and forest fires, as are campfires. The fires in recent years at Wareham Forest, Canford Heath and Studland Heath highlight just how devastating, and resource intensive, wildfires are. It’s vital to stay fire-aware when out and about which is why we would like to remind those enjoying our beautiful open spaces that bringing a picnic is a much safer option than having a barbecue, and campfires should be avoided.”
Emma Teasdale, Litter Free Dorset Coordinator said, “In addition to the severe fire risk, disposable barbecues are single-use, impossible to recycle, and contribute to deforestation. There is no such thing as ‘responsible disposal’ of an item designed to be used once and thrown in the bin, and the millions sold by UK retailers every year will end up being incinerated or left to litter our environment. We are calling on everyone to do the right thing: Protect Dorset’s wildlife, people, and green spaces, and reduce the impact of single-use items on our environment, by choosing not to use disposable barbecues.”
Paul Attwell, Team Manager at Urban Heaths Partnership said: “Heathland fires are devastating to people, wildlife and property, and 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.”
The Firewise project seeks to help communities living close to heathland to mitigate the risk posed by wildfires to their properties. Click here for information on Firewise.