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Heath fires: some safety advice

The recent bush fire in Canada is horrific. The latest reports say it’s starting to abate as the weather has cooled and there’s been a bit of rain. But so far 622 square miles have been burnt – one estimate puts this as equivalent to the area within the M25 – and a fifth of homes in Fort McMurray have been destroyed. It is astonishing that there have been no casualties, but the damage to people’s lives and to the environment is catastrophic. And it may never be known for certain how it started.

Of course, wild fires can happen closer to home.  In southern France and Spain, there is constant vigilance during the summer months, with fire engines on watch in vulnerable areas of the countryside, and barbecues are often banned.

But bans don’t work if arsonists are involved. Recently a large area alongside a major motorway in the north of Spain was devastated by fire and it was likely this was started deliberately. In the UK, there seems to be an increasing number of heath fires, and these are also often attributed to arsonists. It just beggars belief.

Now that the summer is coming, we all need to be careful if we’re out in the countryside. Grass fires can spread and change direction really quickly, and the London Fire Brigade warns that you should never attempt to put one out yourself. Instead, immediately call the fire brigade with the location. And they give four key pieces of advice to help prevent grass fires:

  • Never leave camp fires or barbecues unattended and always make sure they are properly extinguished.
  • Take care with bottles and glasses: clear them away as they can magnify the sun and start a fire.
  • Ensure cigarettes are completely extinguished and dispose of them safely.
  • Tell children about the dangers of playing with fire.

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