Hastings residents are being urged to help keep their countryside safe following a spate of gorse fires in the town.
Firefighters have attended an abnormally high number of incidents within the local open areas of natural beauty recently.
These include Hastings Country Park, North’s Seat, The Firehills and Tackleway - there have been eight gorse fires in the last six days.
Station Commander Paul Way said: “We are genuinely fortunate to have such areas of outstanding natural beauty on our doorstep and it is vital that we protect them not only for ourselves and the natural habitat, but also for our children, their children and for generations to come.
“Often incidents are accidental in nature and it is not uncommon for the number of incidents to increase in good weather when more people will visit these areas. Unfortunately though, the majority of the incidents attended recently are believed to have been deliberately set and due to the recent dry weather, combined with wind conditions; have stretched local fire crews considerably. At times, the strong winds whip across exposed gorse and vegetation drying it out, fanning flames, blowing sparks onto combustible vegetation some considerable distance away and providing optimum conditions for fire growth and spread.”
REMEMBER: Fire is unpredictable and a small fire, even a controlled fire, for example a campfire, can become a fully involved forest fire in a very short time.
Members of the public are reminded to take certain basic and common sense precautions:
- Do NOT light fires in pen countryside, use only designated areas.
- Ensure smoking materials are correctly extinguished.
- Upon discovering any fire report immediately to the FRS using the 999 Service then leave the area immediately.
- Attempt to give as accurate a location as possible, use marker posts, car park names, etc. to identify position. This will allow the FRS to correctly locate the incident
- Do not leave glass or bottles on woodland floor, the sun’s rays through glass can, and do start fires.
- Do not attempt to fight fires yourself, fires in undergrowth and gorse in particular are extremely difficult to control and require significant numbers of well-trained and equipped personnel.
- Only use barbecues in designated areas and ensure hot coals, embers etc. do not spread to nearby heathland.
- If you are having a barbecue or campfire ALWAYS ensure you have sufficient water to hand to extinguish the fire if necessary. Usually a single bucket will suffice, however we recommend having two.
- Never attempt to put out a barbecue with a fire extinguisher. In untrained hands this will very likely spread the fire.
- After use any barbecue coals should be thoroughly doused in water. If not doused properly coals can, and do, smoulder and pick up again later on.
- Never throw cigarettes out of car windows, the ends can be blown onto the heathland floor and cause fires.
The majority of the incidents attended recently are believed to have been deliberately started and members of the public are asked to be vigilant and report any suspicious activity.
If you have any information about arson (deliberate fires) or any other crime please call Crimestoppers free and anonymously on 0800 555 111 or visit Sussex Crime Stoppers
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The final message from ESFRS though is this, please get out into the areas of outstanding natural beauty, enjoy this amazing part of the county, play safe but at the same time BE FIRE AWARE AND FIRE SAFE.