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Norfolk on alert as wildfires prompt public warning

PUBLISHED: 17:43 03 July 2018 | UPDATED: 20:04 03 July 2018

Firefighters at the scrub fire   Picture: Chris Bishop

Firefighters at the scrub fire Picture: Chris Bishop

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The public are being urged to take extra after the tinderbox conditions from the on-going heatwave have left firefighters tackling hundreds of wildfires.

Firefighters at the scrub blaze   Picture: Chris BishopFirefighters at the scrub blaze Picture: Chris Bishop

Tinderbox conditions that have sparked large fires have prompted Norfolk firefighters to warn people to take extra precautions to prevent further wildfires with hot and dry weather set to continue for the foreseeable future.

Last month was the driest June on record, with East Anglia seeing just 10pc of its normal rainfall, and the weather has continued with some places in Norfolk having not had rain for 20 days. It has left much of the countryside “tinder dry” and at risk of wildfires.

Norfolk Fire Service has dealt with more than 110 grass and countryside fires over the past seven days with dozens more calls outs on Tuesday.

Garry Collins, Head of Fire Prevention and Protection with Norfolk Fire Service, said: “We have been very busy. We have in excess of 60 calls today with fires involving grass, forestry and crops. We have also been supporting our colleagues in Suffolk with a number of similar incidents.

Fire fighters tackle the fire at Mousehold Heath. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYFire fighters tackle the fire at Mousehold Heath. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

“We have had hot spot areas were we have had repeat fires, including Mousehold Heath in Norwich, which we have had multiple call-outs to in the past couple of days.

“The issue is that the longer we have this dry spell the more combustible material in the countryside becomes.”

While some fires may have been started deliberately, most are due to careless actions including discarded cigarettes and not properly supervised barbecues, and prompting the public to be warned to extra vigilant. Mr Collins said: “The big message that we want to get over is for people to completely avoid naked fires in the countryside. Don’t take barbecues into the country either. Having one in the back garden is fine where you can take the proper precautions.

“And if people see anyone doing anything they shouldn’t be doing, whether that be kids playing with matches or people having a barbecue where they shouldn’t, to get in touch because that gives us an early warning.”

Fire fighters tackle the fire at Mousehold Heath. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYFire fighters tackle the fire at Mousehold Heath. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Amongst the incidents firefighters were called to in the last 24 hours was large area of scrub and dried grass that caught light at Brow of the Hill, along a track which leads from Leziate to Bawsey Pits, near King’s Lynn. Six pumps and a water carrier attended the scene, in a heavily-wooded area half a mile from the road.

Fire crews were also called to put out a field fire near Swafhham and were called shortly to reports of another fire in the open on the A1065 near to the junction with the B1108, at Bodney.

Meanwhile in north Suffolk 18 crews tackled a fire in a field near Mildenhall, and another in Hengrave, near Bury St Edmunds, close to the Tudor mansion Hengrave Hall.

The hot conditions have made tackling incident difficult for firefighters.

Mr Collins said: “Working for periods of two hours in full fire fighting kit can be very draining. There are also issues with accessibility getting to the incident which is often off the beaten track. Also the conditions and wind can send the flames in different directions. At times it can be like herding cats.

“The difficulty is that you also have the chance of re-ignition. And often we just haven’t got the volumes of water and are relying on using dry beaters.”

Help Avoid Outdoor Fires

• Never throw cigarette ends out of car windows.

• Don’t leave bottles or glass in woodlands as sunlight shining through glass can start a fire.

• Follow the safety instructions provided with disposable barbecues

• Never leave a lit barbecue unattended.

• Make sure your barbecue is well away from sheds, fences, trees, shrubs or garden waste.

• In the countryside or public park areas, only use disposable barbecues where there are specially designated areas and carefully follow the safety guidance.

• Keep a bucket of water, sand or a garden hose nearby for emergencies.

• 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 call 999.

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