Fire service and national park chiefs are making an impassioned plea for walkers to observe basic fire safety measures when out taking exercise over the Easter weekend.
The call asking for greater fire safety vigilance comes amid increased concern about the risk of wild fires in Cumbria, which can put lives at risk as well as cause devastation to Cumbria’s environment and place an additional pressures on the county’s firefighters.
With dry ground conditions and warm sunny weather forecast over the coming days, people are being asked to be aware of the dangers of carelessly discarding a cigarette in open countryside.
The warning comes after a wild fire on the top of Newlands Pass, near Keswick, last Thursday. The fire covered approximately 800m by 400m of the hillside. Crews from six fire stations across Cumbria attended and firefighters worked through the night to extinguish the flames. It is believed the fire may have been started deliberately.
Mark Eccles, Head of Park Management for the Lake District National Park Authority, said: “Of course everyone should be staying at home this Easter to protect the NHS and save lives and only leave your house for one form of exercise a day, as per the government guidelines. If you are taking exercise in the countryside, you must not light fires or use barbecues in the Lake District during this time. Any fires can easily get out of control and spread quickly, especially in times of dry, warmer weather. If you see a wildfire please report it to the emergency services.”
Craig Drinkald, Area Manager – Community Safety, Cumbria Fire and Rescue Service, said: “Wild fires can be very challenging to deal with and can in the main be prevented. They can quickly spread, devastating local wildlife, and tackling the fire takes up a large amount of the Fire Service’s time and resources. This is especially important at a time when we are supporting the national effort to respond to the Coronavirus outbreak and focusing our valuable resources on supporting Cumbria’s communities and vulnerable residents.
“We understand people want to get out and exercise once a day. But we would ask people to be more vigilant, enjoy open spaces where appropriate bearing in mind social distancing guidelines – and to act responsibly and follow the countryside code, particularly on fire safety.”
Cllr Janet Willis, Cumbria County Council Cabinet member for Fire and Rescue, said: “At a time when our emergency services are already under great strain as a result of COVID-19, it is vital that we do not add to this pressure. I’d ask people to be aware of the wild fire risks if they take exercise in the open countryside. It’s not acceptable that our firefighters are drawn away to deal with otherwise avoidable incidents.”
How to reduce the risk of wild fires:
Dry ground means there’s an added risk of a fire starting. Follow these tips to reduce the chance of a wildfire in the countryside:
- Extinguish cigarettes properly and don’t throw cigarette ends on the ground.
- Never throw cigarette ends out of car windows.
- Avoid using open fires in the countryside.
- Don’t leave bottles or glass in woodland – sunlight shining through glass can start fires.
- If you see a fire in the countryside, report it to the fire and rescue service immediately.
- Don’t attempt to tackle fires that can’t be put out with a bucket of water – leave the area as quickly as possible.