Police crack down on heath fires

Salisbury Journal: Firefighters damp down a heath fire Firefighters damp down a heath fire

DORSET Police have joined forces with the Urban Heaths Partnership to crack down on crime on the county’s heathland.

Officers are working with Dorset Fire and Rescue Service and Dorset Wildlife Trust to cut down on anti-social behaviour, theft and fire damage.

It’s the 15th year of Operation Heathland, which runs until September 28.

The number of heath fires fell from 163 in 2011, to 111 last year.

Dorset Police also says that the total amount of heathland damaged by fire was significantly reduced from 71.1 hectares in 2011, to 12.8 hectares in 2013.

Sergeant Adrian Thompson said: “Operation Heathland will see high-visibility police patrols across the heathland areas in Poole, Bournemouth, East Dorset and Purbeck to reduce instances of malicious fires, damage from fire, damage from vehicles, theft of items from the heath and wildlife offences.

He added: “Anyone caught starting a fire on a heath will be prosecuted.

“Fires on heathlands not only cause irreparable damage to endangered plants and animals, but they also put people living nearby in danger.”

Gaynor Mant, community safety education officer at Dorset Fire and Rescue Service, said: “I cannot stress enough how important it is to take extra care when enjoying our heaths and open areas.

“If you are a smoker, extinguish cigarettes fully before disposing of them.

“Never ever just throw them lit.

“The result could be 50 or 100 firefighters tackling the subsequent blaze.”

Anyone who would like to get involved in a Heath Watch in their area should call 01202 642787, email Urbanheaths@ dorsetcc.gov.uk or visit the Community Heath Watch – Dorset Facebook page.

Anyone with information about suspicious activity or fires on the heath should call 999 in an emergency or Dorset Police’s non urgent number on 101.

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