Drought increases Easter trip fire risk

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EASTER visitors to heaths and forests will need to take fire precautions normally required in late summer.

The green shoots of spring that usually help to reduce fire risk at this time of year are late and Suffolk’s assistant chief fire officer Phil Embury warned: “All those areas that usually become a fire risk in long, hot, dry spells are a risk already. Forests and heaths are a big risk at the moment.

“A forest or heath fire can spread very rapidly. They can spread faster than you can run, so if you’re near it you should get away from the area as quickly as possible, then phone the fire brigade.”

Peaty soil of heaths and forests is so dry that he warned it can burn along underground, springing up away from the visible fire.

Mr Embury added: “People dropping cigarettes think there’s nothing near it to burn, but in these places the ground itself can burn.

“We ask people to be very careful with the disposal of smoking materials everywhere because discarded cigarette ends cause a lot of fires.

“If you are in the countryside take all your litter home. Glass bottles can start a fire with a magnifying glass effect.”

The drought may also make fighting countryside fires harder as sources of water are disappearing. Mr Embury said: “We send tankers to fires like this but lakes and rivers are drying up so they may not be able to fill up nearby and journey times will be longer.”

He said having a barbecue in the countryside was ‘a no-no’ and if you have one at home use only approved lighters, not petrol or other liquids which quickly get out of control.

“If you’re having a bonfire at home, make sure it’s in an area away from other combustibles,” he said. “Make sure you’ve got something on hand to put it out if necessary. Have a hose standing by — you’re allowed to use one for that.”

n See Page 39 for details of the hosepipe ban and drought.