Following a spate of wildfires across the region, the Country Land and Business Association (CLA) South West has called on the general public to take extra care in the countryside due to the increased fire risk, warning of the devastating impact wildfires can have on farmland.
The dry and windy conditions have elevated wildfire conditions across large swathes of the country, particularly on hillsides, moors and heathland.
With weather forecasters predicting these conditions could continue, the risk of wildfires has increased, with Dorset & Wiltshire Fire Service recently issuing an ‘Amber’ warning.
Firefighters have already dealt with a number of wildfire incidents in recent weeks. In Dorset, more than 60 firefighters tackled a fire affecting approx. 4.7 hectares of gorse and heathland at Verwood, with flames being fanned by the windy conditions. A few days later crews were called to a field in Portesham to deal with an out of control bonfire. The brigade posted a video on social media showing the aftermath of the blaze.
A discarded cigarette was also blamed for starting a fire in a field which had been cut by a farmer and was ready to be baled.
Large wildfires are thankfully rare but, when they do occur, they can be very serious and affect large areas of the countryside. If a wildfire encroaches upon farmland, then crops and farm buildings can be consumed, and homes that border heathland can also be at risk. They also take a great deal of resources to bring under control.
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. Whilst landowners and land managers are advised to be prepared for fires and ensure that fire breaks are cut and well maintained, members of the public also play a vital role in preventing such occurrences.
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. There is also an increased fire risk associated with disposable barbeques that are used in the countryside. Barbeques should only take place in sheltered areas well away from combustible material, and properly extinguished afterwards.
CLA South West, which represents nearly 4,000 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: “With the good weather set to continue, we appeal to the public to be extra vigilant when visiting 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. Prevention is better than cure, which is why we are urging people to enjoy the countryside responsibly.”
In case of a fire, the public is advised not to try and tackle the fire themselves, but to alert the emergency services by calling 999, stating as accurately as possible the location of the fire – such as using What.3.Words.