Disposable BBQs are countryside fire risk, NFU warns

Disposable barbecues left in the countryside have led to hundreds of acres of land torched
Disposable barbecues left in the countryside have led to hundreds of acres of land torched

Recent wildfires across the UK have prompted a warning from the NFU urging the public to be more responsible when out in the countryside.

With Covid-19 lockdown restrictions eased, thousands of people have been flocking to popular rural locations, resulting in an increase in the use of disposable barbecues.

However, barbecues being discarded has seen hundreds of acres of moorland and forestry in Lancashire, Staffordshire and elsewhere across the UK engulfed by wildfires.

Wildfires in the UK are becoming more frequent. 2018 and 2019 together saw more damage caused by wildfires than the entirety of the previous decade, with nearly 50,000ha destroyed in over 200 wildfires.

Now the NFU is calling on local authorities to start issuing Public Space Protection Orders (PSPOs) to combat the increasing frequency of wildfires.

The orders deal with particular nuisance or problems in specific areas by imposing conditions on the use of that area to ensure people can enjoy public spaces safely.

Local Authorities have the power to implement a PSPO under Sections 59 to 75 of the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014.

NFU access policy adviser, Mhari Barnes said some wildfires seen across the UK were caused by visitors using disposable BBQs 'irresponsibly'.

“Due to the prolonged dry weather, we are seeing an increase in wildfires which have a significant impact on farmland and wildlife," she said.

“The NFU would like to see local authorities start issuing PSPOs that deal with problems in a specific area by imposing certain conditions such as a ban on naked flames.

“We are also calling for the full results of the Fire Severity Index review to be published which was carried out following the wildfires of 2018.”

Meanwhile, rural estates in Scotland have recorded more incidents of careless behaviour occurring since lockdown eased, the Scottish Land & Estates (SLE) has said.

Tim Baynes, moorland director at SLE, said: “Each year we are witnessing more and more wildfires occurring on moorland and grassland and this period of exceptionally hot weather in the UK has heightened the risk once again.

“These fires often occur by innocuous means such as discarded cigarettes and disposable barbecues and we need to ensure the correct precautions are taken by those accessing hills and moors.

"Sadly, those managing rural land have found more careless behaviour occurring since lockdown rather than less."