News release text
Firefighters are warning people in the Dartford and Gravesend areas about the dangers of outdoor fires after a huge increase in countryside call outs – up two thirds on last year.
In the last six weeks, Kent Fire and Rescue Service (KFRS) has been called to 93 outdoor, rubbish or grassland fires in the Dartford and Gravesham areas, compared to 33 in the same period last year (1 July to 13 August).
Dartford Crew Manager, Richard Cromarty said: “We’ve had a spell of warm weather, which will hopefully continue throughout the summer holidays so people can enjoy being outside. But we all need to remember grass and woodland gets extremely dry in these conditions and it only takes a careless act of not stubbing out a cigarette properly to spark a fire.”
Fire crews have already been targeting a range of areas and will now be focussing on Dartford Heath over the next couple of weeks, talking to local people about how they can help prevent outdoor fires and stay safe this summer.
Fires include unattended bonfires which have spread to trees and undergrowth, fires in rubbish bins, youths setting fires to grassland and blazes sparked by carelessly discarded cigarettes.
Richard Cromarty adds: “Whether started accidentally or deliberately, these fires can be extremely dangerous and unpredictable they can spread quickly and change direction without warning. They tie up valuable resources that could be needed elsewhere.”
KFRS is working in partnership with local councils, Kent Police and Heath Rangers to drive down outdoor fires in the Dartford area. Local shops are also playing their part by displaying posters advising that lighters and matches will not be sold to under 18’s. Marker posts on the Heath have posters warning about the consequences of starting fires and crews have delivered summer safety advice leaflets to over 500 homes in the Temple Hill, Bridge Estate and Heath areas.
During the patrols, Dartford crews will be using a new all terrain vehicle which can access rural areas, such as woodland, which are difficult to get to with a normal fire engine. The vehicle has already been used this summer to successfully fight countryside fires on the Heath.
Come along and talk to our crews on 20th or 23rd August and get free summer safety advice or get safety tips by visiting www.kent.fire-uk.org or phoning 0800 923 7000 (free from landlines).
You can help reduce the risk of outdoor fires this summer by:
Stub it out - carelessly discarded cigarettes can set light to grass verges and grassland areas
It is illegal to light any fire, including barbeques, on most heathland but if you do have the landowner’s permission make sure bonfires and barbecues are fully extinguished
Take your litter home with you – even a glass bottle can start a fire on a hot day
Don’t accumulate rubbish as 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)
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
If you do see a fire, don’t attempt to tackle it yourself. Call 999 and leave the area as quickly as possible
Give the location of the fire as accurately as you can