A number of distressing incidents have occurred in recent years of fire damage across Dorset as a result of disposable barbecues, bonfires close to heathland and dry wooded areas, the release of sky lanterns and other social activities.
The most serious was the fire that started on 18 May 2020 at Wareham Forest. It affected 180 hectares of heathland and was declared a major incident by the Fire and Rescue Service.
Councillor Ray Bryan, Portfolio Holder for Highways, Travel and Environment, said, “We were all saddened by the fire at Wareham Forest this spring. Not only was it devastating for the forest’s wildlife and habitat, it risked human life and would have been horrendous for the wider environment due to the resulting smoke.”
Approval from Dorset Council’s Cabinet will be sought for council officers to work closely with Dorset and Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service, and other key stakeholders, to look at a range of enforcement options, and other alternatives to control or prohibit barbecues and other fire-related activities.
“We need a consistent approach which works across the whole area to prevent this happening again,” said Cllr Bryan, “This is a complex issue, for example we cannot risk pushing the problem to land managed by organisations, which may not have the resources or enforcement powers in place to prohibit activities, which present a fire risk. We need an approach that works across the area.
“The development of the options paper would enable us to understand how we can work effectively to cover all areas. We know we have wider support amongst Dorset residents to introduce new measures to help prevent further devastating fires like the recent one in Wareham, so now it’s up to us to establish what we can do.”
If you see a fire in the countryside, report it immediately by calling 999.
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