Published on 19.07.2022

Countryside visitors warned of wildfire risk

People are being urged to take extra care when out and about over the coming days due to the heightened risk of wildfires.

The warning comes from Northumberland Fire and Rescue Service (NFRS), Northumberland National Park Authority and Forestry England as visitors are told not to light campfires or use barbecues in the county’s countryside.

Temperatures are expected to get into the 30s next week. In April a blaze at Sweethope Lough burned for a week, tying up significant NFRS resources for the duration.

Wildfire Lead Rob Stacey said: “It’s already been a busy year and we need everyone to be careful whether they’re in the hills, woods, parks or the coast.

“We’ve had six wildfires already, which is more than in the whole of last year and we’re concerned the dry conditions could lead to more

“Some of the fires have been big and covered large areas. We recently had one at Holy Island which has burned a site of special scientific interest.

And while people may feel the risk is lower now some areas have received a bit of rain, as we all know, in reality there has been very little and it will become hot and dry again and any water that fell will very soon evaporate. The risk remains high and the risk will increase further again over the coming days.

“Our advice is simple – we urge those wishing to enjoy our beautiful countryside to take care and do so safely. Take a picnic, not a BBQ.”

Alex MacLennan, recreation manager for Forestry England in Northumberland, said: “A bit of carelessness, dropping a cigarette or match or leaving a barbecue behind, can take hold hours later and cause untold damage to wildlife and habitats and rage for several days.

“We know wildfires can divert emergency services from incidents elsewhere in the county which there may be risk to life.”

Margaret Anderson, Senior Ranger at Northumberland National Park, said: “The Met Office has issued an extreme weather warning in the UK due to the expected high temperatures and this should be taken seriously by everyone.

“During spells of dry weather, there is an increased risk of wildfires, which can be devastating to the landscape and wildlife. Please don’t light campfires or barbecues and consider bringing a picnic or supporting local cafes and businesses in the National Park instead. Follow the local advice and knowledge of Northumberland National Park Rangers and volunteers and pay close attention to visitor information on signs nearby.

“Leaving litter behind can lead to many problems – for example, broken glass left on the ground can cause a fire to start. It can take up to 48 hours for the ashes/embers from a disposable barbecue to cool down completely and even then, disturbing ashes can introduce oxygen and reignite smouldering ashes. Please take all litter home with you and leave the landscape as you found it.

“If you do decide to visit, please plan before you travel. Check northumberlandnationalpark.org.uk for information and bring water and sunscreen with you, especially if you’re planning on visiting remote areas and may not be close to local facilities for the duration of your visit.”