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Firefighters urge residents to do their bit to avoid summer fires

1 June 2020

Disposable barbecue

Firefighters are urging people living in Kent and Medway, and those travelling into the county to enjoy its extensive coastline, to follow simple steps to stay safe this summer and help prevent fires and injuries. 

Following the sunniest Spring on record in the UK, and the driest May in 124 years, the Fire Severity Index is currently 'very high' - meaning fires at this time could develop and spread rapidly and with greater severity.

There are a whole host of hazards that arise at this time of year associated to the warmer weather and drier conditions which can all lead to greater demand on emergency services. Kent firefighters see more injuries sustained and fires started from greater barbecue use, as well as increased garden bonfire activity, all of which have the potential to spread wildly because of the parched land. But this doesn’t have to be inevitable, and everyone can do their bit to reduce the risk of these types of incidents taking hold. 

Chris Colgan, Director of Operations

Director of Operations at Kent Fire and Rescue Service, Chris Colgan, said: “At this time of year, especially when the weather is warm and dry, the risk of fires starting increases and we need everyone to help reduce that risk. 

“There are incidents that are intrinsically linked to summer time, like barbecues and grass fires, but it doesn’t have to be that way if we all take care. The smallest careless action can result in a large fire putting life and property at risk – discarding a warm cigarette out the window, having a barbecue too close to a fence or foliage, or throwing a disposable barbecue or ash away before it’s fully cooled, for example.    

“If we all work together, we can bring the risk down and keep our communities safe. Our firefighters will always be there and ready to respond, but please, do your bit to prevent fires which can have devastating consequences.

“It’s also important to take care to avoid injuring yourself or sustaining burns, which we see particularly with people using disposable barbecues. If you do suffer a minor burn, cool it for at least 20 minutes under cool running water, call 111 for medical advice and cover the burn in loose cling film. 

“You can also do your bit in helping to keep loved ones and neighbours safe in the heat, especially the elderly and very young children, by checking on them in line with social distancing guidelines, and giving them tips to stay cool, like staying inside, keeping hydrated and closing curtains to keep their home as cool as possible.”

Vehicle blocking fire engine

In recent weeks, as more people have flocked to the coast as Covid-19 restrictions have eased, the fire service has seen an increase in irresponsible parking, which could prevent a fire engine or other large emergency vehicle such as an ambulance getting through and reaching someone in need. 

Chris said: “Blocked roads can delay our crews when responding to an emergency, as they have to knock on doors and get the vehicles moved. Such obstructions can also force us to change our route or tactics, possibly requiring us to lay out longer hoses from further away as an example. So it’s really important that people take a look at the space they’ve left once parked, and if it doesn’t look like a fire engine could fit through - please find somewhere else to park, it really could save someone’s life.”

Kent Fire and Rescue Service’s top tips for a safe summer:

  • Keep barbecues away from fences or foliage
  • Keep children and pets well away from lit barbecues
  • Use recognised fire lighters of starter fuel for charcoal barbecues – Do not use petrol
  • Make sure barbecue ashes are fully cool before disposing of them 
  • If changing a gas cylinder for a gas barbecue, make sure the tap is turned off first
  • If you suspect a leak in the gas cylinder or pipework turn it off and do not use it. Place disposable barbecues onto a hard, flat and non-flammable surface, such as bricks, before the cooking commences
  • Make sure disposable barbecues are fully cooled before throwing them away, and don’t bury them on beaches – this can cause injury to people and animals. 
  • Stub smoking materials out in a sturdy ash tray or on a solid, non-flammable surface like concrete or in a metal bucket.
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