‘Land and lives at risk’ during heatwave as firefighters called out to 66 arson attacks and 44 accidental fires

Derbyshire Fire and Rescue service.
Derbyshire Fire and Rescue service.

Firefighters are warning residents to take ‘extra care’ during the heatwave after 66 arson attacks and 44 accidental fires ripped through the county in the last month alone.

Derbyshire Fire were called out to 66 fires which had been started deliberately in open grassy areas and farmland, “putting land and lives at risk”.

As temperatures soar in a heatwave expected to last for weeks, the service has also urged residents not to start any kind of garden fire following call-outs to 44 accidental incidents.

These included a garden fire which had run underground through dry roots and earth to a neighbouring property.

Since June 26, firefighters have been mobilised to 71 fires in the open- meaning these kind of incidents have more than tripled compared to the June 2017 total which was 19.

A spokeman for the service said: “We’d like to remind people obviously not to participate in deliberate fire setting as it’s dangerous, harmful to the environment and it takes fire service personnel away from potentially lifesaving 999 emergencies.”

Derbyshire Fire and Rescue area manager, Bob Curry, said: “We’re asking members of the public to be vigilant and to help us by taking steps to minimise the number of grass fires we are attending.

“The ground and vegetation is tinder dry and anything that can cause a spark can soon escalate to a fire on a large scale.

“Discarded cigarettes, outdoor barbeques and discarded glass bottles can all pose a serious threat when conditions are so dry.

“I’d also like to appeal to people to delay having any garden fires at the present time, as they too have the potential to spread rapidly, as tinder dry grass and overhanging trees can soon cause the fire to spread to fences, sheds and even homes.”

Derbyshire County Council is also appealing for residents to help firefighters keep the county safe in light of the “reckless” incidents.

Councillor Barry Lewis, leader of the authority, said: “Conditions are tinder-like in many places and all it would take is a carelessly discarded cigarette, an unattended barbecue, a garden fire or a sky lantern to cause a major incident.

“Our emergency services do an amazing job and we want to do everything we can to support them. We can all play our part and we’re urging residents to be safe and sensible and not put lives and land at risk.”

Coun Lewis added: “It’s hard to understand how some people can be so reckless when it’s clear their actions could have such serious consequences as the shocking images of the fires on Saddleworth Moor show.

“Meanwhile, Severn Trent Water is reporting the highest demand for supplies in 40 years and we’re working with them to support their efforts. At a time like this the last thing we need is a major incident caused by carelessness or recklessness using valuable resources.”

Safety advice issued by Derbyshire Fire and Rescue Service:

General fire safety advice

• Site your fire on bare earth, away from dry grass or vegetation that can easily catch fire

• Keep bonfires away from overhanging trees and away from sheds, homes and garages, other property and pet enclosures

• Do not use petrol or accelerants to light fires

• Keep a bucket of water or hose pipe on hand in case of an emergency

Barbecue safety

• Keep barbecues away from overhanging trees, sheds, garages, homes and pet enclosures

• Never use petrol or accelerants to light barbecues

• If you’re using a disposable barbeque place it on a hard, fireproof surface – never on dry grass

• Place hot coals onto bare earth to cool down and never put them into a wheelie bin or other bin that could catch fire. Consider the safe disposal of single-use barbecues

• Keep a bucket of water or hose pipe on hand in case of an emergency

Fire safety outdoors

• Don’t discard cigarettes out of car windows – dispose of them properly

• Don’t leave glass bottles lying around – the sun can magnify through the glass causing a fire

• Place barbecues on bare earth, away from dry grass and don’t leave them unattended until they’re completely extinguished.

Derbyshire County Councillor Kevin Buttery, who is also chair of Derbyshire Fire and Rescue Authority, said: “Our firefighters do a great job keeping the county safe often in extreme conditions which are made even more challenging by the current heatwave and we can all do our bit to support them by following the fire service’s safety advice.”

Dial 999 in am emergency.