CLA South East is calling on the public to take extra care in the countryside as warm, dry and settled conditions have elevated wildfire conditions.
This week’s warm weather follows a prolonged dry period across much of the region. According to the latest figures from the Environment Agency, on average there were 24 dry days last month (0.2mm recorded rainfall or less a day) in the South East, and it was the sunniest April on record. May has continued the trend, with just 5% of the long-term average rainfall being recorded last week.
The dry conditions are likely to continue over the next few weeks, with the medium-range forecast predicting a prolonged spell of above-average sunshine and below-average rainfall.
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.
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.
The CLA has also long called for the ban on sky lanterns as these pose a serious risk of fire, especially in the countryside. At present the Government is unwilling to introduce a ban as they do not consider the dangers significant enough, despite animal deaths and fires as a result of sky lanterns.
CLA South East represents thousands of farmers, landowners and rural businesses in Kent, Hampshire, Surrey, Sussex, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire and the Isle of Wight.
Regional Director Michael Valenzia said: “Wildfires can have significant impacts, on communities as well as scarring the landscape and destroying wildlife, and we appeal to the public to be extra vigilant when out and about in the countryside.
“Please take litter home, use common sense and keep an eye out.”
Rob Gazzard, Chair of the South East of England Wildfire Group (SEEWG) said: “If you find a wildfire please call 999, tell the operator of your location and relevant details, await the Fire and Rescue Services at an agreed entrance point and observe coronavirus guidance.”
What to do:
- Do not try and tackle the fire yourself.
- Call 999 and request the fire service.
- Give an accurate location of the fire e.g. Name of the nearest road, access points, visible landmarks (pubs, farms, power lines etc), locally known names, and map grid references.
- Move to a safe area and contact the local land manager if possible.
- If the fire is in a remote area, please meet emergency services at the access point so that you can guide them to the location.
What not to do:
- Don’t discard cigarettes.
- Don’t have BBQs in unauthorised areas.
- Never leave a BBQ unattended.
- Don’t discard rubbish - particularly reflective materials.
- Don’t burn off garden rubbish during hot periods or if you live close to woodland.
- Don’t have bonfires on hot days or during prolonged periods of dry weather.