Heath fires in the New Forest

Heath fires. So quick to start, so hard to extinguish.

A reminder to us all in the New Forest - so dry right now - about how easy it is accidentally to start a fire.

Mark on a serious subject this week..."Many of you will have heard the news of the massive heath fire near Wareham last week. I don’t know about you but I can’t remember when it rained last, the heath must have been as dry as dust.

wareham forest fireThere is a retired fireman in our family and he has advised me on the causes. The most common is arson, there are people in this world who enjoy, for whatever reason, starting a fire that kills so many small creatures.

Then there is lightning, it happens!

There is also spontaneous combustion which country types will be familiar with as it is not unknown for a hay rick to combust without assistance from man. Conditions can exist on the heath for this to happen, a deep enough hollow and sufficient plant material can achieve the same as the hay rick.

Guidance for the literate, considerate and caring

I suspect that most of our readers would be mortified if they started a fire and they would probably be deeply ashamed and embarrassed into the bargain. It’s a sad fact that most fires originate from human activity and I suspect that those guilty of such events almost certainly had no intention of such an outcome.barbecue leads to a fire

Deep heat. How a fire can spread deep into the heath floor.

Once I took my son camping in the forest and we lit a very small fire with which to cook supper. Once we had finished, I poured water onto the embers. After ten minutes I checked again (no blue lights here thankyou).  I was shocked to feel heat still present and so I decided to dig down and dissipate the heat. I went down a foot before I came to cool peat! Our fireman relative tells me that he has been stood on heathland having put out a fire when suddenly, twenty paces away the fire springs up again! The fire had travelled underground! The intense heat from the base of a disposable barbecue could easily start a fire deep down in the dry peat.

A conscientious camper such as yourself might carefully check the area before leaving. But the fire is patient.

Please enjoy, but at the same time, please consider the risks.

Nobody is suggesting we shouldn’t have a barbecue at home or that smoking should be banned or any other draconian measures. Perhaps if we just think a little before using that lighter or match."

Mark and Hugh signoff 600x400This article was written and illustrated by Mark and Hugh who normally prefer to write in humorous style. Mark says "this subject passes the local test and also the topical test but fails miserably on humour, as it has to. We fretted about this a little as we are more than aware that you prefer the upbeat. With this in mind the article is short, hopefully not too bossy and certainly not funny. This is the first time that Team Hugh & Mark have gone all educational but surely there's a place for a gentle reminder on the hazards we present to the flora and fauna of our forest. Hugh's cartoon has no caption, it doesn't need one. The facial expressions of 'oh lord' say it all."

Ed. See also our previous article based on the Forestry Commission's slogan "it only takes one match" And perhaps think a bit harder, whether those disposable barbecues so easily available and so convenient are actually a good idea at all. We don't buy them anymore...


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