Amber wildfire alert issued for upcoming May bank holiday weekend

By Jessica Durston - 23 May 2023

Community

The warm, dry weather forecast for the Bank Holiday weekend and into next week has led to an Amber wildfire alert being issued for the Dorset & Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service area.

The alert, which was issued on Saturday 20 May, currently runs until Saturday 27 May but the fire and rescue service says it could be extended.

An Amber alert means that, should a wildfire be experienced, it could spread quickly and easily due to the dry conditions. As seen with the major incident at Studland heath last year, the Dorset & Wilts Fire and Rescue service say such fires take a great deal of resources and time to bring under control.

Group Manager Graham Kewley said: “While the warm, dry weather forecast for the coming days is most welcome, especially with the Bank Holiday and half term, it does significantly increase the risk of wildfire.

"Disposable barbecues left behind while still hot, and campfires that aren’t extinguished properly, are common causes of fires in the open, so we would urge people not to use these while out and about in our beautiful countryside.”

Disposable barbecues and campfires are banned on heathland, in forests, and in many other high-risk areas across Dorset, including at Wareham Forest.

The Service is also urging people to bring picnics instead, with a social media campaign called #BringAPicnicNotABBQ

Fire safety top tips from the fire and rescue service include the following:

  • Don’t have barbecues or campfires on the heath or in open spaces; the risk of a fire starting is too great.
  • Extinguish cigarettes properly, 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, call 999 and report it immediately to the Fire & Rescue Service. Please provide as much detail as possible about location and access, but also make sure you are in a safe place.

Andy Elliott, the Service’s wildfire tactical adviser, said: “Dealing with wildfires is incredibly resource-intensive, and can take days - and sometimes even weeks - to bring under control. This means they are also costly, and yet they can be prevented if the people enjoying our heaths and woodlands heed the warnings and take care.”

Landowners and land managers are advised to be prepared for fires, where possible, and ensure that fire breaks are cut and well maintained, with any cut grasses and vegetation removed from the site.

More information on staying safe and enjoying outside areas whilst avoiding starting a wildfire can be found online at www.dwfire.org.uk/heath-fires-and-countryside-safety

Individuals that see anything suspicious on the heath or open spaces are being asked to report it to Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

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