THE risk of fires across the New Forest is now “extremely high” thanks to the hot weather, authorities have warned.
Forestry England is reminding visitors to be on their guard and that any kind of fire, including barbecues and unextinguished cigarettes, in the area is banned.
The warning followed a huge blaze at Wareham Forest this week which destroyed 190 hectares and sent smoke across the region.
A spokesperson for FE said the incident, which required 28 fire engines including crews from New Milton and Christchurch, had shown “how real this risk is right now”.
FE said it understood why more people would flock to wooded areas at the bank holiday weekend as restrictions are eased after such a long period of lockdown, but it urged people to take care.
National park authority member David Harrison added a caution and, referring to the Wareham fire, said: “It’s so sad when you consider the loss of wildlife, including nesting birds at this time of year.”
The Country Land and Business Association (CLA), which represent landowners, businesses and property owners, is also warning about the prolonged dry period.
The association warned against discarding cigarettes or other smouldering material, as well as litter which can contain shards of glass that can spark fires.
The South East of England Wildlife Group has issued guidelines to anyone who spots a fire starting.
Rob Gazzard, from the group, said: “Wildfires have the capability to devastate farmland, wildlife and also pose a risk to the lives of people living and working in rural and adjacent communities.”
These include calling 999 immediately and giving the location including the nearest road, access points, visible landmarks and map grid references.
If the fire is in a remote area, try to meet emergency services at an access point to guide them to the blaze.
This article was amended on 22nd May 2020 to make clear that Rob Gazzard speaks for the South East of England Wildlife Group.