News release text
Fire crews in Whitstable and Herne Bay are going out and about in the local community to warn residents about the dangers of outdoor fires after a number of callouts during the past few weeks of warm weather.
Firefighters are making regular visits to Thornden, East Blean and Clowes Woods in a bid to raise awareness among young people and their parents of how quickly countryside fires can be caused and spread; causing major damage, using vital KFRS resources and potentially putting lives at risk.
They have been called to incidents in these areas 35 times in the last three years, 91 per cent of these incidents were during summer months. Earlier this year, a new all terrain vehicle was brought in at Herne Bay, helping firefighters to access rural areas which are difficult to reach with a normal fire engine.
“Our aim is to reduce the number of outdoor fires, which are a blight on the countryside, affect the local community and present a risk to public safety,” explains Whitstable Watch Manager Nick Salt. “During the school holidays we often see a rise in these types of callouts, which can be extremely dangerous. If there is a strong wind the fire can spread faster than a person can run. They often need lots of resources and divert firefighters away from other incidents such as house fires or road crashes where lives may be in danger.”
Crews will be displaying posters and handing out leaflets which show the burns sustained by Sittingbourne Firefighter Mat Barney while he was tackling a fire at Dartford Heath in 2005. It is hoped that the graphic photographs of his injuries will dissuade potential arsonists and help to crackdown on incidents of deliberate fires across Kent.
Herne Bay Watch Manager John James added: “There are a number of ways in which people can help us, such as discarding of cigarettes and rubbish carefully, but we’d also like to warn deliberate fire-setters that if they are caught, they face fines or several years in jail – possibly a life sentence if someone is killed as a result of their actions.
“Arson is a crime and certainly not harmless fun. Deliberate fires are destructive and dangerous; those who cause them are putting themselves, firefighters and others at serious risk.”
The following safety tips can help the general public to prevent fires starting in the first place:
· Stub it out – always make sure cigarettes are properly extinguished. Carelessly discarded cigarettes can set light to grass verges and grassland areas
· Don’t light fires in the countryside or drop litter which could be set alight
· Don’t accumulate rubbish it can act as potential fuel for deliberate fire setters
· Contact your local district or borough council to ask about disposal of unwanted furniture, or to report abandoned vehicles or fly tipped waste (Clean Kent 24 hour reporting line 0845 345 0210)
· Extinguish bonfires and barbecues properly
· Put matches and lighters away – they can be a temptation to young people
· If you are a parent ensure that your youngsters are aware of the dangers of fire
· Report any information on fire setting activities and those responsible (anonymously if need be) to Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111