Fire safety plea as dry weather puts countryside on high alert
- Dry weather puts countryside at high risk of fire
- Visitors urged not to use disposable barbecues
- Firefighters tackling grassland blazes across UK
Weeks of unusually dry weather have put the UK countryside at high risk of fires which could be started by careless visitors, warns NFU Mutual.
The leading rural insurer is making a plea for people visiting the countryside not to use disposable barbecues, and to take care to avoid starting fires by accidentally dropping matches in such arid conditions.
Following an exceptionally dry spring, many parts of the UK countryside are at high risk of fires started by barbecues and cigarette ends, the insurer warns. These fires can put people, farm animals and wildlife at risk, as well as destroying natural habitats.
Over the past two months, firefighters have tackled grassland fires across the UK – including in South West England, Scotland and Wales.
In late March, a gorse fire on Dartmoor led to the closure of the busy A386 as the fire sent clouds of smoke across the carriageway.
In Wales, an early April grassfire near Stormy Down, Bridgend, caused damage to an area equal to about 25 football pitches.
On Salisbury Plain, a grassfire fire in early May which destroyed a plantation of trees was traced to a fire pit which had been used as a barbecue.
Scotland too has suffered a number of fires including one near Dumbarton in late April which required 20 firefighters to bring it under control.
Rebecca Davidson, NFU Mutual Rural Affairs Specialist, said: “After a very dry spring, a dropped match or smouldering barbecue is all that’s needed to start a serious fire in our fields and forests.
“With more hot weather forecast, as many people are heading to the countryside, we’re urging visitors to take care to avoid starting a fire. All too often, disposable barbecues, which seem to have gone out, smoulder for hours and start fires which can engulf acres of growing crops and wildlife habitats.”
NFU Mutual claims statistics reveal the cost of farm fires totalled £69m in 2020 – a 40% rise from 2019.
NFU Mutual Countryside Fire Prevention Guide:
- Don’t drop used matches or cigarettes – they can smoulder and start a fire
- Don’t use disposable barbecues on grass or moorland
- Call 999 if you spot a grassland or moorland fire while out in the countryside
- Avoid parking in country lanes where emergency services vehicle access could be blocked
- Don’t drop litter – discarded bottles can focus sunlight and start a fire
- Keep to footpaths when walking in the countryside