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Barbecues banned as Dorset joins New Forest on wildfire alert

VISITORS to forests and heathlands are urged not to light barbecues or campfires as an amber wildfire alert has been put in place across Dorset.

The grading – announced by Dorset & Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service and expected to remain in place into next week – means that dry and windy conditions could cause any wildfire to spread quickly and easily.

This follows the major blaze which devastated a large expanse of land at Wareham Forest last year and had to be battled by dozens of firefighters from Dorset and Hampshire over several days.

The wildfire alert for Dorset is expected to remain in place into next week
The wildfire alert for Dorset is expected to remain in place into next week

People are warned that wildfires take a great deal of resources and time to contain, as well as causing extensive damage to heath, woodland and wildlife.

DWFRS group manager Jason Moncrieff said: “In light of the amber wildfire alert, we are asking for the public’s help by not having campfires or using disposable barbecues in our forests and heathlands.

“Whilst we understand that the lifting of some lockdown restrictions, combined with the dry weather, will mean people will want to go out and about, we cannot stress enough the importance of being fire aware.

“Please follow these few steps so we can avoid another wildfire in our beautiful countryside.”

As well as the ban on barbecues or campfires, smokers are urged to ensure they put out cigarettes properly and not throw the butts on the ground or out of car windows. Litter should also be taken home.

People should report blazes in the countryside to the fire service immediately by dialling 999, providing as much detail as possible about location and access. Those raising the alarm should also ensure they are in a safe place.

Landowners and land managers are also advised to be prepared for fires, where possible, and ensure fire breaks are cut and well maintained, while removing any grass and vegetation cuttings.

For more information on staying safe and how to avoid starting wildfires while enjoying outside areas, visit www.dwfire.org.uk/heath-fires-and-countryside-safety

In the New Forest, an amber wildfire warning remains in place, with all beauty spots and enclosures, along with their car parks, declared no barbecue or fire zones.

The guidance is included on the website of Forestry England, which manages many areas of the national park.

It states: “Protecting the New Forest from the risk of wildfires is everyone’s responsibility.”

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