Heathland fire safety appeal issued by HFRS

Bottle discarded at Yateley Common

Firefighters are issuing an appeal for people to stay safe while enjoying the sunshine and Easter weekend.

As thousands of people prepare to go camping, have barbecues and enjoy the county’s beauty spots, Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service are reminding people to follow the countryside code.

The warm weather has seen a spike in fires in the open including a blaze on Yateley Common that destroyed six hectares of heathland on Tuesday (11/04/17).

There was also a three hectare fire in Lindford, Bordon, yesterday.

There were 39 heathland and grass fires across the two days.

Fires can cause devastating damage to woodland, wildlife and property, but more importantly they also put lives at risk.

Many blazes are caused by carelessly discarded cigarettes. Do not dispose of cigarettes in the countryside. Dispose of smoking materials properly.

Another risk is that the heat from the sun can be magnified through bottles, glasses and broken glass, you should always take any rubbish home with you.

Take extra care when using camp fires or barbecues. Never leave these unattended and only light them in safe, designated areas, away from trees and shrubs.

Any signs of fire or illegal fire setting should be immediately reported.

Group Manager Jerry Leonard said: “Here in Hampshire we are lucky to have stunning countryside, forests and woodland.

“However, the recent warm weather in the build up to the bank holiday weekend means that our countryside is very dry and more people are gearing up to go camping and set up barbecues and camp fires.

“Unfortunately this time of year we also see a rise in illegal fire setting, which is why we urge anyone who suspects or witnesses a fire being started to report this to the police.

“By respecting the countryside and our county’s open spaces we can create a safe place for all to enjoy.”

People should not attempt to tackle a fire too large to be extinguished by a bucket of water or put themselves at risk.

Members of the public should never put themselves at risk trying to take photographs or videos.

They should call 999 immediately and give as much information as possible, and evacuate the area.

Nigel Matthews, Head of Recreation Management and Learning at the New Forest National Park Authority, said: “With more people out in the forest enjoying sunnier spring days over the coming weeks, it is important that people are aware of the dangers of wildfires in the New Forest, especially in the open areas of heathland.

“Please don’t use barbecues away from car parks as even the smallest ember or spark could cause a dangerous fire which would destroy wildlife habitats and endanger people’s homes.”

Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service work with the National Park Authority, Forestry Commission and Hampshire Constabulary to protect the countryside and ensure everyone can enjoy it safely.