FORESTRY England and the emergency services are urging the public not to use BBQs or fires in any forest across the South, in the wake of serious wildfires, including a huge blaze in Dorset destroying 190 hectares

The fire at Wareham is believed to have involved disposable BBQs and a campfire.

Following a period of dry weather, many forests and woodlands are on high alert for the risk of fire. Over the last month there have been seven blazes attended by the emergency services and Forestry England in the New Forest.

In Dorset a recent fire at Puddletown destroying an area of forest was started by a discarded disposable BBQ, and this week around 150 fire fighters attended the huge wildfire at Wareham Forest in Dorset.

Over recent weeks, Forestry England have issued several warnings to the public about the high risk of wildfires and confirmed that fires of any type, including disposable or portable BBQs are not permitted at this time. It has also closed all of its BBQ facilities at popular visitor spots in the New Forest.

Despite this, its staff have reported a steady increase in the number of people using BBQs or lighting campfires on its land. In the New Forest alone, over the last week, its team of rangers have spoken to hundreds of people and extinguished many BBQs.

The damage caused by wildfires can be devastating and forests take many, many decades to restore and regrow. Fires kill wildlife including the rare reptiles and birds that call the forest home, destroy woodlands, and damage water quality and carbon storage.

Bruce Rothnie, forest management director, south Forest district, said: “Due to the sustained dry weather the risk of fire in our forests is extremely high. The devastating wildfire at Wareham Forest this week has shown just how real this risk is right now.

“Now perhaps more than ever, we all need out outdoor spaces to provide places to exercise, reflect and connect with nature. We must have the public’s help if we are to protect these precious places and ensure everyone can enjoy them safely. If you are planning on visiting the forest or woodlands please do not use fire of any kind, including disposable or portable BBQs, and safely extinguish cigarettes.”

Area manager Craig Baker, from Dorset & Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service, said: “The huge wildfire in Wareham Forest involved hundreds of firefighters from across our entire Service area over several days. This strain on our resources, coupled with the devastating loss of wildlife, is something we want to avoid happening again, and we appeal to everyone who uses our open spaces for work or leisure to take every care and not light fires for any purpose.”

Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service Group Manager for the New Forest Steve Ash said: “We urge the public to do their bit in helping us to prevent devastating wildfires. We want to avoid incidents of this kind at all costs, to protect our community, precious nature sites and wildlife. The huge wild fire in Wareham Forest recently involved hundreds of firefighters, taking up precious resources on an incident that could have so easily been prevented. Avoiding strains such as this on resources means this valuable time can be spent supporting and protecting our community during these challenging times.”

He added “If you see a fire, get to a place of safety and call 999 immediately so we can put it out before it does significant damage to the outdoor spaces we all enjoy. Do not use barbecues or light fires of any kind in the countryside.”

For more information please visit: