Firefighters’ frustration as warnings about barbecues and bonfires ignored

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Nine hay bales and a stack of timber were alight at Rockbourne fire (photo: HFRS)

FIREFIGHTERS have shared their frustration as they continue to fight blazes in the New Forest caused by unattended barbecues and bonfires despite repeated warnings to the public.

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Prolonged dry conditions have put the area on a high risk alert by Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service and the national park authority.

People have been told not to light fires in the area, but there were several calls to such incidents during the bank holiday weekend.

Fire at Sandleheath (photo: HFRS)

A group of youths was said to have fled the scene as firefighters responded to reports of a barbecue on land just off the Wilverley Plain car park, near Brockenhurst, on Sunday night.

The alarm was raised shortly after 8pm, and a local crew arrived to find burgers and sausages on the abandoned barbecue. They quickly extinguished it and disposed of the remains.

Forestry England workers also attended the scene but could not find the youngsters.

Having spent Monday helping the ongoing efforts in the aftermath of the large blaze at Wareham Forest – itself believed to have been sparked by discarded barbecues – Beaulieu firefighters were called out to an incident in Beaulieu Road.

Flames flared up shortly before 11.30pm after a group lit a campfire. As well as hosing down the fire, the crew had to dig up the affected land to contain any embers.

On Saturday, New Forest NPA rangers had to put out smouldering barbecues abandoned at Forest sites in Brockenhurst, Linford Bottom and Anderwood.

They tweeted afterwards: “Disappointed to see people are still having barbecues despite the fire warnings.”

The aftermath at Efford (photo: HFRS)

Fordingbridge firefighters extinguished a bonfire which had been lit at a site in North Gorley last Friday night. They also attended a blaze involving nine large hay bales and a stack of timber on farm land in Rockbourne on Sunday afternoon.

Lyndhurst fire station tweeted on Wednesday: “The Forest is on a high risk alert.

“We’ve had an increase in the number of calls to people having fires and bonfires over the last couple of weeks. This is not permitted.”

Flames from an out-of-control bonfire also destroyed a shed in Cedar Avenue, St Leonards, near Ringwood, last Thursday afternoon, sparking a further plea for people to avoid starting them.

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