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Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service would like to remind the general public how vulnerable the countryside is to heath fires during periods of warm, dry weather.
We urge the public to take care when in the countryside and to alert the Service to fires as early as possible via 999 calls. An early call could mean the difference between a small, easily controllable fire and a widespread, devastating fire.
As well as a threat to the local nature the high number of calls causes a huge demand on the Service. Crews from fire stations across the north of the county mobilised to twelve separate heath and grassfire incidents over the Bank Holiday weekend.
Station Manager Paul Robson from Rushmoor Fire Station advised:
“It has been a particularly busy time for firefighters based at Rushmoor, Fleet, Hartley Wintney, Yately and Odiham Fire Stations who attended numerous fires in the vicinity. The dry weather increases the risk of fire substantially and many heath fires are in fact accidental, common causes include carelessly discarded smoking materials, barbecues and litter.. However, we believe that some fires have been maliciously ignited. As part of our ongoing campaign to reduce heath and woodland fires across the Rushmoor and Hart area we are promoting school education about the dangers and issues related to arson, working closely with the local police force and engaging with land owners to increase good land management to reduce the risk of fire. We are also deploying arson patrols on the heath by use of bicycles.”
Group Manager Martin Walters from Rushmoor Fire Station said:
"We don't want to prevent people from making the most of our countryside, but our top priority is safety. When there has been a significant dry spell do not underestimate how easily fires can start.
“By following the simple guidelines, such as avoiding dropping litter, avoiding careless disposal of cigarettes and reporting any suspicious events, we can reduce the risk of further fires and continue to enjoy the countryside for the forthcoming summer months. If you have any concerns, or if you see a fire, you should contact the fire and rescue service or police. Most importantly, think of your safety first."
Group Manager Walters added:
“If you do see a fire in the countryside, contact Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service immediately. Phone the fire and rescue service - dial 999. Give a map reference if possible, otherwise give a landmark such as a farm or pub to help locate the fire. Estimate the size of the area that's burning and describe the type of terrain (grass, bracken, forest, open moorland etc), then evacuate the area as soon as possible.”