RESIDENTS are being urged not to have campfire or use disposable barbecues in forests or heathlands over the bank holiday weekend.

Dorset and Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service (DWFRS) is reminding the public to stay vigilant after receiving another AMBER wildfire alert, which is set to be in place over the weekend.

This alert means that, should another wildfire be experienced, it could spread quickly and easily due to the dry and windy conditions. The fire service says as seen with the major incident this week in Wareham Forest, wildfires take a great deal of resources and time to bring under control.

At the height of the response, Dorset & Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service had 25 fire appliances in attendance, additional 4x4 vehicles and around 150 firefighters at the scene. In addition, specialist high volume pumps, a high-volume pump tactical adviser and three wildfire tactical advisers were also in attendance. Whilst the fire is now under control, there are still over 50 firefighters on scene as multiple hotspots remain, spread over a vast area (188 hectares).

Following a fire investigation, which has been ongoing since Monday, DWFRS now believe the cause of Wareham Forest fire to be accidental, due to social activity in the forest. The exact cause cannot be pinpointed, but there is evidence of multiple disposable barbecues and campfires.

Area manager Craig Baker said: “In light of the devastation at Wareham Forest and the AMBER wildfire alert, we are asking for the public’s help in ensuring our resources can be used for the vital support of communities by not having campfires or using disposable barbecues in our forests and heathlands.

"Whilst we understand that the dry weather will leave many wanting to go out and enjoy it, we cannot stress the importance of being fire-aware enough. This incident is a prime example of how a moment of carelessness can escalate, and the destruction it can cause. Please follow these few steps so we can avoid another wildfire in our beautiful countryside.”

The following advice has been issued:

• Don’t have BBQs or campfires on the heath or in open spaces, the risk of a fire starting is too great in the current conditions.

• Extinguish cigarettes properly, don’t throw cigarette ends on the ground or out of car windows – take your litter home.

• If you see a fire in the countryside, report it immediately to the Fire & Rescue Service and provide as much detail as possible about location and access. Early detection can prevent it from developing into a large wildfire incident.

When calling the Fire and Rescue Service:

• Get to a safe place,

• note the fire location,

• call 999,

• meet the Fire and Rescue Service at the entrance.

• Don’t attempt to tackle fires that can’t be put out with a bucket of water – leave the area as quickly as possible.

Landowners and land managers are also advised, where possible, to be prepared for fires and ensure that fire breaks are cut and well maintained with any cut grasses and vegetation removed from the site.

Over recent weeks, Forestry England says it has issued several warnings to the public about the high risk of wildfires and confirmed that fires of any type, including disposable or portable barbecues are not permitted at this time. It has also closed all of its barbecue facilities at popular visitor spots in the New Forest.

Despite this, its staff have reported a steady increase in the number of people using barbecues or lighting campfires on its land. In the New Forest alone, over the last week, its team of rangers have spoken to hundreds of people and extinguished many BBQs. 

The damage caused by wildfires can be devastating and forests take many, many decades to restore and regrow. Fires kill wildlife including the rare reptiles and birds that call the forest home, destroy woodlands, and damage water quality and carbon storage.

Bruce Rothnie, Forest Management Director, South Forest District, said: “Due to the sustained dry weather the risk of fire in our forests is extremely high. The devastating wildfire at Wareham Forest this week has shown just how real this risk is right now.”

He added, “Now perhaps more than ever, we all need out outdoor spaces to provide places to exercise, reflect and connect with nature. We must have the public’s help if we are to protect these precious places and ensure everyone can enjoy them safely. If you are planning on visiting the forest or woodlands please do not use fire of any kind, including disposable or portable BBQs, and safely extinguish cigarettes.”

Click here for more information.