Red fire severity alert for Dorset over blaze spread risk

A RED fire severity alert – the highest level possible – has been issued for all of Dorset for the coming days as extreme hot weather is expected to hit the area.

Residents and visitors are being asked not to have barbecues or bonfires during the current prolonged dry weather.

Dorset & Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service has attended 180 fires in the open in the first 10 days of August. This is a 429 per cent increase on the same period last year.

The red alert means that, should a wildfire breakout, 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.

Fire service 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 fire service has provided the following advice to stay safe while out and about:

  • Avoid having open fires or using barbecues in the countryside
  • Disposable barbecues and campfires are actually banned in many parts of Dorset
  • Extinguish smoking materials properly, and 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, report it immediately to the Fire & Rescue Service Early detection can prevent it from developing into a large wildfire incident.
  • When calling the fire and rescue service: Get to a safe place, note the fire location (apps such as What3Words can help if you’re not sure), 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.
  • If you’re 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 dwfire.org.uk/business-fire-safety/fire-risks-on-farms/

Mr 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 dwfire.org.uk/safety/heath-fires-and-countryside-safety

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