With a potentially hot summer on the way, Katy Sherman, Engagement Officer for the Heathlands Reunited project, looks at the dangers of wildfires and how we can prevent them.
You may have seen the devastating consequences recently of heathland wildfires in Dorset and Surrey. It’s hard not to be emotionally moved by these incidents when you consider the impact on delicate eco-systems that have taken hundreds of years to harmonise. There will inevitably be warmer, drier spells this summer and heathland sites will be at a high fire risk.
Therefore it’s important we all take precautions to keep the fire risk to a minimum. It’s all about being environmentally responsible and understanding that you should “leave no trace” when visiting these wonderfully diverse habitats!
So a few tips:
- Don’t have barbecues at heathland sites, nature reserves, or woodlands. The land is often tinder dry and one spark is sometimes all it takes to start a major fire. Only use barbecues in suitable and safe areas and never leave them unattended.
- Avoid using open fires in the countryside
- Sunlight shining through glass can start large fires – take glass bottles/jars home.
- Only picnic in designated areas
- Never throw cigarette ends out of car windows – they can ruin whole fields of crops
Very different to wildfires are controlled burns. They can be a management technique on heathland to remove mature plants, creating regeneration of new heather and grass shoots. These are only ever carried out by skilled, trained members of staff who carefully establish a burning plan.