With warmer weather on the way, firefighters are urging the public to enjoy bonfires and barbecues responsibly.
This comes following an increase in the number of bonfire-related 999 calls and incidents Kent Fire and Rescue Service has dealt with this week, compared to the same time in previous years.
The rise is believed to be due to more people being at home due to Covid-19 isolation, and opting to have bonfires in the fine weather. It could also be linked to the closure of household waste sites across the county.
And with warmer temperatures forecast this weekend, it’s expected even more people will have controlled outdoor fires in the form of bonfires, fire pits and barbecues.
Kent Fire and Rescue Service's Assistant Director for Resilience, Lee Rose, said: “We are monitoring what impact the current Covid-19 isolation situation is having on the type of incidents we are attending, and it’s clear there has been more bonfires across the county, and more people noticing them in recent weeks.
“With lots of people staying home in line with government advice, we’re getting more calls from concerned residents seeing smoke – those unaware that it’s coming from a controlled burn. So, we’re asking that if you plan to have a bonfire or light a fire pit, please let your nearby neighbours know to avoid concern, and to help reduce the number non-critical 999 calls we receive.”
The fire service may not respond to call outs regarding bonfires where the burning is taking place in a controlled and responsible manner.
Anyone having a bonfire is urged to take care and follow fire service safety advice:
• Remember to build your bonfire well clear of buildings, garden sheds, fences, hedges and overhanging branches.
• Keep it to a manageable size and make sure it is evenly built so it collapses inwards as it burns.
• Always have a bucket of water or hosepipe nearby in case of emergency. If the bonfire becomes out of control and catches foliage or property alight, call 999.
• Be sure not to leave bonfires unattended and dampen them down fully once you’re done.
Those enjoying barbecues are also urged to do so safely, keeping cooking well away from fences, foliage and buildings even if there are no flames, because radiated heat alone can cause nearby plants or structures catch fire.
Please, stay home and stay safe, remembering not to travel out of your local area to enjoy the nice weather, and avoiding parks, country parks and coastal areas.