RURAL insurer NFU Mutual is making a plea for people visiting the countryside over the Bank Holiday weekend to take care not to start fires in tinder dry conditions.
Following an exceptionally dry spring, many parts of the UK countryside are at high risk of fires started by dropped cigarettes, barbecues and camp fires, the insurer warns. Dry and windy conditions this weekend mean that fires could also quickly spread.
These fires can add pressure to highly-stretched emergency services during the Coronavirus pandemic while putting wildlife and farm animals at risk.
Recent moorland and grass fires have caused serious damage to wide areas of the countryside. Fire crews have been dealing with a major heath and woodland fire at Wareham Forest in Dorset which broke out on Monday. In South Yorkshire, fire crews have spent more than two days tackling a moorland fire in a peat bog near Doncaster.
Despite tight lockdown rules still being in place, grass fire outbreaks have also risen across Wales, with numbers up by a thousand on 2019 figures, according to the Mid and West Wales Fire Service which is reporting a 24 per cent increase over the past eight weeks.
Rebecca Davidson, NFU Mutual Rural Affairs Specialist said: “With more good weather forecast, many people are planning to head to the countryside over the Bank Holiday weekend after weeks in lockdown – but it’s vital that they avoid starting fires which can put people, wildlife and farm animals at risk.
“People should be extra careful when out and about in the countryside, especially on moorlands. Please don’t take disposable barbeques up there on walks or start camp fires, and don’t leave litter and rubbish lying around.”
NFU Mutual claims statistics reveal the cost of farm fires totalled £46.4m in 2018, when there was a very dry spell – a 27.5 per cent rise from 2017 and the highest cost in four years.
NFU Mutual Countryside Fire checklist
Don’t drop used matches or cigarettes – they can smoulder and start a fire
Don’t start campfires or 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 narrow country lanes where emergency services vehicle access could be blocked
Don’t drop litter – discarded bottles can focus sunlight and start a fire
Follow national and local Coronavirus rules
Keep to footpaths when walking in the countryside
More information about safety in the countryside is available from NFU Mutual’s website