A red fire severity alert has been issued for the coming days across Wiltshire and Dorset.
The warning from Dorset & Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service follows the amber weather warning for extreme heat from the Met Office.
After an unprecedented increase in fires in the open in August, DWFRS are asking the public not to have barbecues or bonfires during this current hot spell.
In the first 10 days of this month, firefighters attended 180 fires in the open. During the same period last year, the service dealt with only 34 incidents of this nature. That is an increase of over 429 percent.
A red alert means that should a wildfire be experienced, it could spread quickly and easily due to the dry conditions. The risk is greatest on large areas of open land, such as heathlands, fields and even cliffsides.
Group Manager Stuart Gillion said: “After months of warm and dry weather, our countryside areas are tinder dry. This not only increases the risk of fires spreading quickly but also increases the risk of ignition .
"We are urging local farmers to take extra care, as sparks from hot machinery can easily lead to a field catching fire, and we ask everyone enjoying our beautiful countryside and coastline to take extra care and be vigilant with anything that could lead to a fire starting.”
The service has issued a list of tips:
Top tips for staying fire safe while out and about include:
- Avoid having open fires or using barbecues in the countryside.
- Extinguish smoking materials properly, and don’t throw cigarette ends on the ground or out of car windows. Take litter home.
- If you see a fire in the countryside, report it immediately to the fire and rescue Service. Early detection can prevent it from developing into a large wildfire incident.
- When calling the service, get to a safe place, note the fire location - apps such as What3Words can help if uncertain - and call 999. Meet the fire and rescue service at the access point.
- Don’t attempt to tackle fires that can’t be put out with a bucket of water – leave the area as quickly as possible.
- At the beach, don’t set off flares, have campfires or light barbecues as these can easily lead to gorse and foliage on the cliffs catching fire.
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.
Farmers are urged to keep their machinery well maintained, and to follow the Service’s advice on staying fire safe, which can be found at https://www.dwfire.org.uk/business-fire-safety/fire-risks-on-farms/
GM Gillion added: “Dealing with wildfires is incredibly resource-intensive, and some can take days – and even weeks – to bring under control. Alongside the devastating impact on the countryside, such fires are also very costly, and yet they can be prevented if people heed the warnings and take care.
"We can all play a part in keeping Dorset and Wiltshire safe from fire.”
More information on staying safe and enjoying outside areas whilst avoiding starting a wildfire can be found at https://www.dwfire.org.uk/safety/heath-fires-and-countryside-safety/