The CLA (Country Land and Business Association) is calling on the public to take extra care in the countryside due to the increased fire risk.
The renewed call follow several fire incidents on farm fields over the last week, including a farmer in Bingley, West Yorkshire who found 11 freshly launched sky lanterns in his mown hay field yesterday morning (18 July) awaiting baling.
The Met Office’s Fire Severity Index (updated daily), indicates a high to exceptional fire risk across the entire country, during the first half of this week due to record breaking high temperatures.
The risk of fire, especially on hillsides, moors and heathland, has been elevated by high temperatures this week, coupled with a long spell of dry weather. The warm weather also increases the number of visitors to the countryside.
Wildfires have the capability to devastate farmland, wildlife and also pose a risk to the lives of people living and working in rural and adjacent communities. Reducing the risk of wildfires is key at this time of the year, and raising awareness is one way in which the risk can be reduced.
Wildfires can be prevented by not discarding cigarettes or other smoldering material. The same can be said for litter as quite often bottles and shards of glass can spark a fire.
Some CLA members have highlighted the increased fire risk associated with disposable barbeques that are used in the countryside, urging the visiting public not to barbeque in rural areas. Barbeques should only take place in sheltered areas well away from combustible material, and properly extinguished afterwards.
CLA Director North Lucinda Douglas said:
“It is absolutely incomprehensible that sky lanterns are released, especially at this time of year as it is literally akin to ‘fly tipping’ fire at random.”
“An increasing number of local authorities are banning the release of lanterns from council-owned land, and we hope the Government will take note of a growing desire to see the use of these ‘flying bonfires’ banned outright.”
“In the past, we have witnessed the devastating impacts wildfires fires can have, both on rural communities and farmers, as well as scarring the landscape and destroying wildlife. We appeal to the public and farmers to be extra vigilant when out and about in the countryside.”
“The tinderbox dry conditions on farmers’ fields is also of concern, especially as harvesting operations are in full swing. Farmers ought to check for dust build-up in their combines, as it is a common cause of fire.”
“We encourage all farmers to equip themselves with fire extinguishers, or to have bowsers in strategic places around their field in case of fire, as well as checking their vehicles for faults which may release sparks onto dry stubble.”
CLA member farmer Martin Stone, from Bingley in West Yorkshire said:
“I found 11 fire lanterns in the meadow. The hay was dry, in rows and ready to be baled on one of the hottest days ever, in very dry conditions. If the hay had caught fire from the lanterns with their bamboo frame and wire - both hazards in themselves - the wind would have quickly spread it to other fields full of hay as well as our building half full of hay and machinery. It would also have endangered nearby properties.”
“I find it inconceivable that people, without any thought, can let these fire bombs go into the sky without knowing where they will land or what damage they could cause. You wouldn’t throw a lighted match over the garden fence if you knew it could travel for miles, so why would you release these things? Today’s world is getting further and further removed from the farming and natural world.”
The CLA has been campaigning for a total ban for a number of years, and will continue to do so for the sake of farming, wildlife, the environment and property owners everywhere.
On a local level, the CLA urges councils who have not yet introduced bans to give it some serious consideration, and balance the decision in favour of many people who have to deal with the unintended consequences of releasing sky lanterns and balloons.
In case of a fire, the public is advised not to try and tackle the fire themselves, and to alert the emergency services on the 999 number, stating as accurately as possible, the location of such a fire.