Be wildfire aware

Is wildfire such an issue?

Yes! Wildfire is one of the most significant dangers to heathland. It can spread fast, destroying whatever is in its path.

Many species cannot move fast enought to escape the flames of a wildfire

Amongst that destruction will be young chicks and eggs, snakes, lizards, small mammals, dragonflies and butterflies. Vegetation burns quickly, with vast areas consumed in all directions.

The lives of visitors are at risk and people’s houses on the fringes are placed in jeopardy and firefighters head towards danger to fight the advancing flames.

Fires can burn for days, sometimes burning underground and reappearing elsewhere.

This destruction can take years to recover from and can set rare species back sometimes to the point of no return. It can alter habitats – with intricate mixes of heathers, mosses and other small plants being replaced by blankets of bracken or seas of grass.

Reptiles are often wildfire casualties

 

Although animals may escape the flames, the habitat they reemerge into is significantly different

Download: Heathland & Wildfire Newsletter #1

 

 

What starts a wildfire?

As the sunniest and driest spring on record has progressed, the number of incidents of wildfires on the Thames Basin Heaths has crept up and up: Horsell Common, Barossa, Bramshill, Brentmoor Heath, Turf Hill, Yateley Common, Hazeley Heath, Ash Ranges… There have also been very large wildfires at Thursley and one in Wareham, Dorset, which destroyed an area of heathland about 200 football pitches in size.

Most wildfires are caused by carelessness, so are ultimately avoidable.

It is often difficult to pin-point the exact cause of a wildfire, but most are started through a simple act of carelessness: A discarded cigarette, a disposable BBQ, the sun being magnified through a glass bottle tossed into the vegetation, people messing around with fire.

One act of thoughtlessness can result in the destruction of a rare habitat and cause suffering and death to many animals. The message is straightforward – DO NOT bring sources of fire to a heathland.

Wildfires are usually caused by carelessness - Don't bring fires to the heath

How can we reduce the incidence of wildfires?

Quite simply, if everyone is careful and does not bring BBQs to the heath, ensures they dispose of cigarettes responsibly and takes all litter home, the frequency of wildfires will drop considerably.

We are all responsible for our actions and the message is clear.

Heathland wildfires can be avoided if you do ot bring BBqs, have campfires and take all your litter home with you

 

What to do if you discover a wildfire?

If you ever spot a wildfire, it is important that your first step is to get to a safe place. Flames can spread faster than an Olympic sprinter and can swiftly change direction, cutting off potential escape routes. Your safety is of paramount importance.

If you discover a wildfire - no matter how small - get to a safe place, ring 999 and provide all the information you can.

Fast action is vital and all fires, no matter how small, should be reported to 999. A small fire can become a large fire very quickly and will be harder to extinguish, causing more damage. #BeWildfireAware

Wildfire is a significant issue across the entire Thames Basin Heaths area an beyond...

Heathland wildfires can spread swiftly and are incredibly dangerous. Look how close one of these fires is to a residential area.

 

Free Education Sessions!

Teachers! Here at the Thames Basin Heaths Partnership, we look to engage local schools with their heathlands and encourage them to take action to look after them. We offer a range of exciting free outdoor learning opportunities for your students that cover a range of curriculum areas across KS1 and KS2. These include opportunities for students to explore local heathland, learn about some fascinating rare animals and plants and discover the threats to this amazing habitat. We also offer classroom-based sessions and assemblies. #OurAmazingHeathlands

For more information, please contact Michael Jones – Education and Engagement Officer – michael.jones3@naturalengland.org.uk

 

Further reading

Download: Heathland & Wildfire Newsletter #1

 

 

Wildfire alert!

Reporting and preventing fires!

K9 fire patrol

Hitting the headlines for all the wrong reasons

 

Publications

Natural England (2020) The causes and prevention of wildfire on heathlands and peatlands in England

Forestry Commission (2014) Building wildfire resilience into forest management planning

Fire And Rescue Services

Hampshire

Surrey

Royal Berkshire

 

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