Paul Flaherty, Assistant Director Channel Tunnel and Resilience
A senior firefighter from Kent Fire and Rescue Service has issued an urgent appeal for people to be extra vigilant during the current hot weather to protect the county’s countryside from fires.
Although Kent and Medway experienced a good amount of rain last weekend; the sun, dry weather and high temperatures are back and have returned the county to tinder dry conditions and increased the risk of outdoor fires.
Assistant Director Channel Tunnel and Resilience at KFRS, Paul Flaherty said: “There is a real danger in these very dry conditions of fires having a devastating impact on people’s lives, homes and livelihoods. I want to appeal to the people of Kent and Medway and our visitors to be extra vigilant to prevent outdoor fires on what is now tinder dry land, caused by the second coming of this summer’s heatwave.”
Firefighters from across the county have been called to a number of fires in the open countryside over the last 36 hours involving corn fields, woodland, wheelie bins and grassland. From mid-afternoon yesterday (Thursday 2 August) through to this evening (Friday 3 August) Kent Fire and Rescue Service has been very busy with outdoor fires.
At 2.36pm on Thursday 2 August, four fire crews were sent to a large field fire in Longfield near Dartford. In Canterbury this lunchtime (Friday 3 August at 1:46pm), five crews dealt with a large field fire involving standing corn in Upstreet near Sarre. Firefighters worked in tough conditions to contain the fire.
While in Swanley four crews were sent to a grassland fire in Swanley (Friday 3 Aug 2:38pm), and within an hour and a half four more fire engines were sent to tackle a fire involving large areas of farmland at Crockenhill near Swanley.
On the Isle of Sheppey, firefighters tackled a large field fire on Harty Ferry Road, Leysdown-on-sea (Friday 3 Aug 4:47pm). Firefighters worked with the landowner to manage the fire and allow it to burn in a controlled way, with crews holding a watching brief.
Paul Flaherty said: "Whilst there’s a real need to be vigilant, there’s also a need to be sensible and responsible too. We need people to take real care over barbecues; they should be managed carefully, with coals and ash disposed of once things have really cooled down.
“Not only that, but to those who smoke, please make sure you fully extinguish smoking materials. Evidence suggests that too many of our attendances to large grassland and crop fires result from the careless discarding of smoking materials.”
“In these dry conditions, we ask you to make sure that garden fires are kept well attended and not built too big that they become unmanageable. It’s also important to be aware of your surroundings; shrubs and trees are also very dry. Garden bonfires can quickly spread. Having a garden hose or even buckets of water on hand can prevent the unintended spread of this kind of fire which hasn’t been helped by the high winds we have also been experiencing.
“I’d also like to appeal to people walking in the glorious Kent countryside, please make the most of it, but remember to be responsible with sources of ignition and other materials that can reflect heat that can be the source of ignition for a grass fire. We are fully supportive of the Kent County Council and Highways Agency initiatives that urge people to take their rubbish and waste material home with them rather than discard it carelessly from moving vehicles or in the countryside. Please dispose of it responsibly. Whilst most of these fires are started accidentally, it is the case that some are started deliberately. Please help us to protect our countryside by being vigilant and reporting those that you believe to be acting irresponsibly. We will work with our colleagues in other agencies to ensure the necessary action is taken to prevent this kind of behaviour.
“Kent Fire and Rescue Service is well prepared and will be there where and when we’re needed, but my appeal is to keep the demand for KFRS down for fires that can easily be avoided with a little more care and attention. Thank you.”