Safety warning to prevent devastating wildfires as Wigan residents head to the great outdoors

An urgent reminder has been issued by two fire and rescue services as Wiganers look forward to spending more time outdoors.

Tuesday, 30th March 2021, 10:58 am

Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service (GMFRS) has joined forces with Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service (LFRS) in a bid to prevent wildfires.

They want people to stay safe while enjoying time outdoors, as the coronavirus restrictions change, school holidays begin and Easter approaches.

But they also want to prevent a repeat of the destruction caused by moorland fires in summer 2018, when large blazes ripped across miles of countryside, bringing areas to a standstill.

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A fire at Wigan Flashes in July 2018

Paul Duggan, area manager and head of prevention for GMFRS, said: “The memories of the moorland fires in 2018 remain fresh in the minds of everyone involved, from our firefighters who worked incredibly hard to put the fires out to the residents who were forced from their homes.

“Moorland and wildfires can be started in a number of ways. Sadly, many fires in the countryside are started deliberately, however, some can break out by people being careless with barbecues, campfires or not disposing of cigarettes properly.

“Our message is strong and clear - never have a barbecue or campfire on the moors or start a fire deliberately wherever you are in the UK. Many people think it’s just the flame from a barbecue that sets the moorland on fire, but it’s actually the heat from the disposable barbecue that often sets peat and dry moorland alight.”

Groups of up to six people or two households can now meet outdoors in line with the latest Government guidance to minimise the spread of Covid-19.

Mr Duggan added: “We understand that people want to spend time outdoors – especially as we see warmer weather and lighter nights arrive - but we all need to keep doing our bit to stop the spread of Covid-19.

“Government advice is for people to minimise domestic travel as the ‘stay at home’ rule ends. We want to reinforce that message and ask people to consider if making a long journey is necessary before heading to the countryside in a different area. Not only will this help minimise the spread of coronavirus, it could also prevent wildfires from breaking out.

“I’m sure all of our residents will welcome the opportunity to meet with their family and friends again this weekend – I certainly do – but let’s keep each other safe and keep getting out of this lockdown by remembering hands, face, space, fresh air.”

Over the Easter weekend, fire crews and volunteers from GMFRS will spend time in areas at high risk from wildfires. They will talk to members of the public about preventing wildfires and the impact of incidents such as moorland fires.

LFRS is working with partners from Lancashire Fire Operations Group in preparation for Easter, which is usually an exceptionally busy time.

Liam Wilson, group manager for LFRS, said: “In recent years we have seen an increase in wildfires, some of which have been caused by deliberate and negligent ignition. To those individuals who seek to aggravate an already difficult situation, we ask them to think about the wider consequences of their actions.

“The direct impact of wildfires upon our communities can be massive, however, they also need to consider that these incidents tie up critical emergency service resources, which could have serious consequences for other people who may genuinely need our help elsewhere. We will continue to work with colleagues from Lancashire Police regarding investigating these incidents.

“Early notification is important as these fires can develop very quickly. If you do see a fire, please dial 999 and report it immediately.”

As well as causing disruption to communities, moorland fires destroy the food that lots of wildlife need to survive and have a huge impact on the animals that make the moors their home.

The moors also play a key role in the fight against climate change - losing large areas of peat and vegetation releases carbon into the atmosphere.

Safety advice for enjoying the great outdoors:

• Never take a barbecue on the moors or to the countryside - it poses a huge risk of fire, is a risk to the environment and ties up firefighters who may be needed for other serious incidents

• Always extinguish your cigarette and any other smoking materials properly. Never throw your cigarette butt out of your car window - it could ruin whole fields of crops

• Don't leave bottles or glass in woodlands. Sunlight shining through the glass can start large fires. Take them home or put them in the waste or recycling bin

• Never start a fire of any kind - it may seem a good idea at the time, but a fire in the open can easily get out of control

• If you see a fire in the countryside, report it immediately. Don't attempt to tackle fires that can't be put out with a bucket of water. Leave the area as soon as possible and dial 999

More advice is available at manchesterfire.gov.uk/staying-safe/what-we-do/seasonal-safety/countryside-safety-advice/

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