Contributed by Suffolk Police and Crime Commissioner
9/07/2022 - NFU Mutual
The UK’s leading rural insurer, NFU Mutual, is making a plea for visitors to the countryside to leave barbecues at home and not slip on fire safety as temperatures are set to soar in the coming days. Droughts in spring and more recent heatwaves have already seen a number of large gorse and grass fires across the country, including those traced back to disposable barbecues and fire pits which serve as a stark warning against carelessness in the countryside. These fires, which can spread quickly and are difficult to put out, cause devastating damage to vast areas of the British countryside and endanger wildlife and livestock, as well as destroying natural habitats.
In June, a huge gorse fire quickly destroyed around 1,000 square metres of headland near Kingswear in Devon, after another fire in Dartmoor led to the closure of the county’s busy A386 in March. On the same day in June, several gorse fires raged in Cornwall as people took to the coast to enjoy the hot weather. Later in June, a disposable barbecue started a large blaze in an area of heathland in rural Dorset. Further north, two wildfires endangered rare wildlife in Northern Ireland’s Murlough National Nature Reserve, with barbecues and lighter fluid found in the ashes. In Scotland, a gorse fire in Edinburgh obscured the city’s National Monument on Carlton Hill.
Earlier this year, a grassfire near Bridgend in Wales damaged an area equal to around 25 football pitches, and a fire pit, used as a barbecue, sparked a grassfire which destroyed a plantation of trees on Salisbury Plain.
Rebecca Davidson, Rural Affairs Specialist at NFU Mutual, said: “We know that dry, hot weather puts large parts of the countryside at risk of fire, and there are many examples of quick-spreading fires causing great damage to rural areas, including farmland and nature reserves. “As well as putting the lives of people at risk, fires endanger wildlife and livestock and can damage valuable crops, impacting the livelihoods of farmers and other rural busines people. “We’re urging visitors looking to go out and enjoy the hot weather to act considerately in the countryside, as the smallest spark can start a massive fire. Please don’t use disposable barbecues or make fire pits on walks as they can smoulder long after you have left. “Visitors shouldn’t drop matches or cigarettes, both of which can smoulder and start a fire, and should pick litter up.”
Safety at home
Fire safety should start at home, so people looking to enjoy the hot weather with a barbecue in their garden should also take care of the risks.
Andrew Chalk, home insurance specialist at NFU Mutual, said: “Barbecues should be situated away from the house and away from dry grass, shrubbery or bushes. A single spark from the barbecue could be enough to start a fire. Have some water nearby in case a spark does ignite and consider wetting the area around the barbecue if necessary.
“Hot ashes or sparks are also more likely if the barbecue hasn’t been cleaned since it was last used, so people should regularly clean their barbecues of ash and old grease.
“Thatched homes can be at particular risk of fire as stray sparks could ignite the whole roof, especially in dry weather. Those with thatched properties, or with neighbouring thatched properties, should situate any barbecues well away from the thatch to ensure sparks are kept far from the thatch.”
NFU Mutual countryside fire checklist:
* Don’t drop used matches or cigarettes – they can smoulder and start a fire
* Don’t start campfires or use disposable barbecues on grass, moorland or in forests
* Call 999 if you spot a fire while out in the countryside
* Avoid parking in narrow country lanes where emergency services vehicle access could be blocked
* Don’t drop litter – discarded bottles can focus sunlight and start a fire
* Keep to footpaths when walking in the countryside
More information about safety in the countryside is available from NFU Mutual’s website: www.nfumutual.co.uk
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