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Fire warnings as hot weather and dry conditions could spark wildfires

PUBLISHED: 12:08 27 June 2018 | UPDATED: 11:45 29 June 2018

Six fires have occured at various sites of Thetford Forest over the space of a few days. Picture: Forestry Commission

Six fires have occured at various sites of Thetford Forest over the space of a few days. Picture: Forestry Commission

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Visitors to the region’s woodland and heathland areas are being urged to heed advice as the threat of fires grows.

Damage caused following a fire at Thetford Forest in 2015. Photo by Brightstar Designs and PhotographyDamage caused following a fire at Thetford Forest in 2015. Photo by Brightstar Designs and Photography

With temperatures soaring and continuing dry conditions, beauty spots are at risk of fires which can take hold at great speed and have a devastating effect.

Firefighters are still trying to tackle the fire on Saddleworth Moor, Greater Manchester, which has been ongoing since Sunday.

Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service have made 42 visits to incidents classes as fires in the open since June 25.

Some of these are for the same incident or location that has been revisited.

Paul Seaman, district Commander for South Norfolk and Breckland Norfolk Fire and Rescue service. Picture: Ian BurtPaul Seaman, district Commander for South Norfolk and Breckland Norfolk Fire and Rescue service. Picture: Ian Burt

Paul Seaman, district Commander for South Norfolk and Breckland Norfolk Fire and Rescue service (NFRS), said: “The current conditions mean many areas are extremely dry and NFRS crews have attended small wildfires in the open at several locations across the county in recent days.

“We have well-practiced procedures and equipment for dealing with wildfire, but of course prevention is better than cure.

“We would urge the public to dial 999 if they spot a wildfire, however small, as early intervention gives our crews the best opportunity to prevent fire spread.”

A straw stack fire at Burnham Market. Picture: Chris BishopA straw stack fire at Burnham Market. Picture: Chris Bishop

Fires at Thetford Forest

Over the weekend six fires were reported across the 18,730 hectare Thetford Forest at sites in Santon Downham, High Lodge and Mildenhall Woods.

Despite signs warning that barbecues are not permitted in the forest, which is managed by the Forestry Commission (FC), these warnings were ignored.

The aftermath of the straw stack fire near Litcham. Picture: Ian BurtThe aftermath of the straw stack fire near Litcham. Picture: Ian Burt

FC spokesman Roger Woods said minimal damage was caused and the areas affected were quite small.

He is pleading for people to take note of the rules when they visit the beauty spot to help protect the trees, wildlife and other people within the forest.

Forest fire at Kingfisher Lake, near ThetfordForest fire at Kingfisher Lake, near Thetford

Countryside at risk

Farmland is also susceptible to grassland and arable crop fires which can put lives at risk and costing millions of pounds in damaged crops and machinery.

“The huge fires raging on Saddleworth Moor are a stark warning to the damage fires can cause in very dry conditions,” said Tim Price, NFU Mutual Rural Affairs Specialist.

“The tinder dry conditions and continuing heat wave pose a major fire risk to the countryside, threatening crops, equipment and even personal safety. Every precaution needs to be taken by both farmers and visitors alike.”

Advice

Mr Seaman added: “We would advise people to take extra care when enjoying outdoor activities, especially in the current conditions.

“People must avoid lighting campfires or using barbecues, other than those supplied at recognised sites on hard standing, as this may well lead to wildfires occurring.”

People are also advised to take note of general safety warnings when barbecuing in their gardens as grass areas will be dry.

Information on fire safety in the countryside is available on the Norfolk County Council website under the Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service section.

Forestry Commission rules

1. Don’t throw cigarettes out of car windows or drop them in the forest when you are driving or walking in the forest. Dispose of any cigarettes safely and ensure they have been properly stubbed out

2. Open flames and barbecues, including disposable ones, are not permitted within the forest

3. Avoid dropping glass of any kind on the forest floor; this can sometimes accidentally start a fire, or injure people or animals

4. Never start a campfire in the forest as they can get out of hand very quickly

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