CLA South West warns of impact of wildfires in dry and hot conditions

Dry and windy conditions can elevate wildfire conditions across large swathes of the countryside.

As temperatures rise resulting in an elevated risk of wildfires across the region, the Country Land and Business Association (CLA) South West calling on the public to take extra care in the countryside.

The dry and windy conditions have elevated wildfire conditions across large swathes of the country, particularly on hillsides, moors and heathland, with the CLA warning of the devasting impact wildfires can have on farmland. The conditions mean that, should a wildfire be experienced, it could spread quickly and easily taking a great deal of resources to bring under control. If a wildfire encroaches upon farmland, then crops and farm buildings can be consumed, and homes that border heathland can also be at risk.

Two recent incidents include:

  • Dorset & Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service were called to a at Bemerton Heath following reports of a large health fire.
  • Devon & Somerset Fire & Rescue Service were called to a large heathland fire on Woodbury Common with residents warned to stay indoors.

Large wildfires are thankfully rare but, when they do occur, they can be very serious and affect large areas of the countryside.

CLA South West, which represents nearly 6,000 of landowners, farmers and rural businesses across Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, Gloucestershire, Somerset and Wiltshire, said recent incidents act as a timely reminder for people to take care when in the countryside.

Regional Director Ann Maidment said: “After an extremely wet start to the year the warmer weather is welcome. However, this brings with it a new set of challenges to the countryside. It only takes a small spark to start a fire on ground as dry as it is currently, so extra caution must be taken to help protect crops, wildlife and habitats.

“Reducing the risk of wildfires is key at this time of the year, and raising awareness of the dangers and impact they have is one way this can be achieved. Whilst farmers, landowners and land managers are advised to be prepared for fires, members of the public also play a vital role in preventing such occurrences, which is why we are appealing for visitors to the countryside to be extra vigilant. Prevention is better than cure, which is why we are urging people to enjoy the countryside responsibly.”

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.

However, there are also steps which members of the public can also take to reduce the opportunity for wildfires to start.

Top tips reducing the risk of wildfire include:

  • Do not use disposable barbecues in the countryside
  • Extinguish smoking materials properly - don’t throw cigarette ends on the ground or out of car windows.
  • Don’t discard rubbish, particularly reflective materials which can cause a spark.
  • Don’t have bonfires on hot days or during prolonged periods of dry weather.
  • Never leave fires unattended and make sure they are fully extinguished after use.

What to do in the event of a fire

  • Don’t attempt to tackle fires yourself
  • If you see a fire report it immediately by calling 999.
  • Not the location of the fire using What3Words
  • Move to a safe area and contact landowner if possible.
  • If the fire is in a remote area, meet emergency services at the access point so that you can guide them to the location.