Four fold increase in fires triggers a red alert for Dorset

Dorset and Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service (DWFRS) has issued a red fire severity alert across its region after a dramatic increase in the number of fires during the current hot weather.

DWFRS says there has been an unprecedented increase in fires in the open since the start of August 2022 and is asking the public not to have barbecues or bonfires at this time.

Swanage Fire Station attend fire at Blandford
Swanage Fire Station

With resources stretched, Swanage Fire Station was called to support the crews at Blandford Forum with this fire on Tuesday 9th August 2022

An increase of more than 429 percent

A red alert means that, should a wildfire be experienced, it could spread quickly and easily due to the dry conditions. The risk is greatest on large areas of open land, such as heathlands, fields and even cliffsides.

In new figures released, the fire service says that from 1st to 10th August 2022, it attended 180 fires in the open.

During the same period last year in 2021, it dealt with only 34 incidents of this nature. This is an increase of more than 429 percent.

Fire at Corfe Castle
swanage fire station

This fire beside the railway track between Corfe Castle and Harmans Cross started on Saturday 6th August 2022. Later Swanage Railway said it was suspending the use of steam locomotives and using diesel engines instead while the hot weather continued

Fires in the open 1st to 10th August 2021

Fire agricultural: 1
Fire caravan/camping: 2
Fire in the open – small: 30
Fire in the open – large: 1
Fire heathland/moorland: 0
Fire standing corn/crops: 0
Total: 34

Fires in the open 1st to 10th August 2022

Fire agricultural: 1
Fire caravan/camping: 2
Fire in the open – small: 130
Fire in the open – large: 20
Fire heathland/moorland: 5
Fire standing corn/crops: 22
Total: 180

Firefighters extinguishing fire at Worgret Heath
Wareham Fire station

This fire at Worgret Heath near Wareham was caused by a disposable barbecue on Thursday 4th August 2022

“Our countryside areas are tinder dry.”

DWFRS group manager Stuart Gillion said:

“After months of warm and dry weather, our countryside areas are tinder dry. This not only increases the risk of fires spreading quickly but also increases the risk of ignition.

“We are urging local farmers to take extra care, as sparks from hot machinery can easily lead to a field catching fire, and we ask everyone enjoying our beautiful countryside and coastline to take extra care and be vigilant with anything that could lead to a fire starting.”

Barbecue at Lulworth
Wareham Fire Station

This barbecue on the dry grass at Lulworth was extinguished by Wareham Fire Station on Wednesday 10th August 2022

Avoid having open fires or using barbecues in the countryside

The fire service is asking people to avoid having open fires or using barbecues in the countryside. It points out that disposable barbecues and campfires are banned in many parts of Dorset

All cigarettes should be extinguished properly and not thrown on the ground or out of car windows.

At the beach, people mustn’t set off flares, have campfires or light barbecues as these can easily lead to gorse and foliage on the cliffs catching fire

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

No barbecue sign
Wareham Fire Station

“Such fires are also very costly”

Stuart Gillion added:

“Dealing with wildfires is incredibly resource-intensive, and some can take days – and even weeks – to bring under control.

“Alongside the devastating impact on the countryside, such fires are also very costly, and yet they can be prevented if people heed the warnings and take care. We can all play a part in keeping Dorset and Wiltshire safe from fire.”

Further information

  • More on how to avoid fires starting in the open is on the DWFRS website

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