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Barbecue lovers warned of ‘absolute stupidity to use an open flame in forest’

PUBLISHED: 06:45 11 August 2020 | UPDATED: 10:52 11 August 2020

People have been warned about having barbecues in Thetford Forest. Picture: GETTY IMAGES/ISTOCKPHOTO

People have been warned about having barbecues in Thetford Forest. Picture: GETTY IMAGES/ISTOCKPHOTO

Copyright: Michael Heim

Barbecue lovers have been warned of the “absolute stupidity” of lighting fires in Thetford Forest during the summer heatwave.

What starts out as the smallest fire can cause huge damage to Thetford Forest. Picture: SONYA DUNCANWhat starts out as the smallest fire can cause huge damage to Thetford Forest. Picture: SONYA DUNCAN

All barbecues - including eight for hire at High Lodge - have been banned at the ancient woodland, as temperatures are set to remain at above 30C for days.

The Forestry Commission, which runs the site, has warned: “There is a high risk of forest fires.”

MORE: Massive fire destroys huge section of ancient forest

That is not only because of the heat, but because the grass has become more overgrown during the Covid-19 lockdown.

A discarded glass bottle caused this vast fire in Thetford Forest. Picture: NORFOLK FIRE AND RESCUE SERVICEA discarded glass bottle caused this vast fire in Thetford Forest. Picture: NORFOLK FIRE AND RESCUE SERVICE

However, people have continued to bring disposable barbecues despite bans in the past – prompting fears people might continue to put 19,000 hectares of trees at risk.

Dave Goodrum, secretary of the Friends of Thetford Forest, said forest managers “can’t check every vehicle going in” for prohibited equipment.

However, he said: “It is absolute stupidity to use an open flame in a forest environment.

“The grass is longer at the moment, because people haven’t been trampling all over it during lockdown and it is more overgrown than it normally would be.

The Friends of Thetford Forest has warned about the dangers of fires. Picture: SONYA DUNCANThe Friends of Thetford Forest has warned about the dangers of fires. Picture: SONYA DUNCAN

“I would certainly reiterate the Forestry Commission’s stance to not use barbecues.”

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Mr Goodrum also warned that the vast nature of the forest means it is not always easy for firefighters to access fires.

“It’s not like rolling up to someone’s house,” he said.

“It might take 30mins to get to the fire.”

His warning comes after a huge fire, started by a glass bottle left in sunlight, destroyed 14,000sq m of the forest and took several days to extinguish.

He said incidents like that one are often “down to people’s carelessness”, adding: “We would encourage people to take their litter home.

“If you’ve brought it with you, you’re perfectly capable of taking it home. Don’t leave it behind.”

MORE: History of Thetford Forest

Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service area commander Ken Williamson has also warned that accidental fires are a risk during warmer weather.

“The increasingly dry conditions make crops, grass, trees and undergrowth particularly vulnerable to fire,” he said.

“In the past we have seen acres of land destroyed because someone has flicked away their cigarette or not properly extinguished their disposable barbecue.

“We are asking people to be aware of these dangers and respect their surroundings.”


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