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Barbecue and campfire blazes continue as frustration mounts for firefighters and Forest groups

Damping down at Norleywood Enclosure (picture: HFRS)
Damping down at Norleywood Enclosure (picture: HFRS)

A WOODLAND blaze near Lymington was among several sparked by barbecues and bonfires tackled by frustrated firefighters at the weekend after the public was warned against them.

Consistent warm and sunny weather has seen the New Forest declared a high fire risk, and it was placed on amber alert as the weekend approached.

Hampshire and Dorset’s fire services, and local bodies such as Forestry England and the New Forest National Park Authority, announced a ban on barbecues, bonfires and campfires.

But despite the warnings through signs and site visits by fire crews and authority representatives, there were dozens of incidents across both counties throughout the weekend.

These call-outs have lit up the organisations’ social media pages, with one saying “the message doesn't seem to be sinking in”.

Shortly before 3am on Sunday there was an alert to quickly spreading flames in the Norleywood Inclosure, near Lymington, said to have been caused by a discarded disposable barbecue.

Firefighters from the town and Beaulieu spent about two hours battling to bring the emergency under control.

Ignoring the signs at Castle Hill (picture: HFRS)
Ignoring the signs at Castle Hill (picture: HFRS)

Just hours earlier, shortly before 10pm on Saturday, a Lymington crew had dealt with a fire in the open on the north side of the site. This turned out to have spread from a bonfire.

A disposable barbecue was responsible for a blaze in Shore Road, Hythe, around midday yesterday (Monday), which was tackled by local firefighters.

Fire crews from Lyndhurst and Hardley had to deal with a blaze at Emery Down yesterday (Sunday) morning, which was caused by an unattended bonfire.

Posting on Twitter afterwards, Paul Reddish, station commander for six New Forest fire stations, commented on the irony that crews were called out as they prepared to carry out crackdown patrols with FE workers.

“Couldn’t make it up!” he added.

On Saturday afternoon two disposable barbecues were extinguished at the Cadman’s Pool and Bolderwood sites in the New Forest by Fordingbridge firefighters patrolling the area with FE.

The repeated incidents led private wildfire consultant and trainer Andy Elliott to post hard-hitting images on Twitter showing some creatures, including adders and frogs, that had died in such fires.

“The message doesn't seem to be sinking in,” Mr Elliott tweeted. “It's not complicated, but some just aren't getting it. Fire crews are dealing with avoidable wildfires all over the UK.

“No fires, no barbecues in the countryside. Our wildlife pays the price.”

A tweet by Fordingbridge fire station’s account said: “The signs put up across the New Forest are very clear and say ‘high fire risk’ for all to see!

Wildlife pays the price (picture: Andy Elliott)
Wildlife pays the price (picture: Andy Elliott)

“So why, in the driest May since records began, are people still having barbecues in the countryside with total disregard for the potential outcome?”

FE rangers and keepers worked late on Saturday night putting out campfires and removing overnight campers from the New Forest.

Fire crews found two gas camping stoves in use when they attended a busy Balmer Lawn in Brockenhurst on Saturday afternoon.

As the amber alert was put in place last week, the fire services and local bodies put out the message that barbecues, campfires, bonfires and other types of open fires were not permitted in the Forest “under any circumstances”.

Bruce Rothnie, FE’s New Forest deputy surveyor, said: “To understand how real the risk of wildfire is we only have to look at the recent incident at nearby Wareham Forest.

“Here a wildfire, likely to have been started by disposable barbecues, has been burning for almost two weeks and destroyed 220 hectares of forest. That’s the equivalent of 310 football pitches, all destroyed in a matter of days by carelessness, and taking decades to recover.

“Preventing fires from starting in precious outdoor spaces like the New Forest requires everyone to play their part. I would like to remind anyone coming to the New Forest that barbecues or fires are strictly not allowed anywhere on the Forest at this time.”

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