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3/4/2012 - Wildfire warning issued

Cumbrians are being urged to be wary of the dangers of wildfires following a large grass blaze near Ulverston.

On Thursday and into the early hours of Friday, firefighters battled for nearly five hours to bring the fire that had spread over an area of around 500 meters at Lowick Common Green under control.

Between 2009 and 2011 there were 42 wildfires in Cumbria and there have been four already in 2012.

These 46 fires have affected a geographical area of nearly 3,000 acres.

During and after spells of warm, dry weather, the risk of wildfires increases, so Cumbria Fire and Rescue Service is calling on people in the county to be vigilant and take a few simple steps to help reduce the chance of this type of blaze.

Dominic Harrison, Cumbria's Chief Fire Officer, said: "With the Easter holidays, lighter evenings and warmer weather now upon us, more and more people will be out and about enjoying Cumbria's great outdoors.

"Of course we don't want to ruin anybody's fun and want people to get on with enjoying themselves - I'd simply ask them to take great care and consider the damage that can be done by something like a discarded cigarette.

"Over the past few years we have invested significantly in specialist training for our staff and additionally purchased new equipment including specially modified Land Rovers to help us, but without doubt the best defence against wildfires is prevention and everyone needs to do their part to ensure that fires don't break out in the first place."

The fact Cumbria is a haven for fell walkers and outdoor enthusiasts with millions of people visiting the area each year to enjoy the lakes and fells makes wildfires a major concern for emergency services and land managers.

The steep and often difficult terrain can easily result in the rapid spread of wildfires - add to this a limited access to water, and the ability to put these fires out is made even more difficult.

People should also be aware that special care is necessary when using disposable barbeques. They should ensure that they are set up in a way that cannot cause fire to the surrounding vegetation. Once finished, they need to be totally extinguished and safely disposed of.

It is also very important to follow all warning signs about fire risk. Notices are there for reasons of public safety, but are only effective if people heed them.
Further guidance on wildfires and being responsible can be found at:
Hints and tips for avoiding wildfires include:

* Take your rubbish with you, especially glass bottles, which can magnify the sun's rays and start a  fire as well as hurt people and animals.

* Extinguish cigarettes properly, don't throw cigarette ends on the ground or out of car windows.

* Avoid open fires in the countryside. Always have them in safe designated areas.

* If you see a fire in the countryside, report it immediately to the Fire & Rescue Service. Early  detection can prevent it from developing into a large wildfire incident.

* Don't attempt to tackle fires that can't be put out with a bucket of water - leave the area as  quickly as possible.

* Landowners and Land Managers are also advised, where possible, to ensure that fire breaks are cut  and well maintained with any cut grasses and vegetation removed from the site.

* Remember that arson is a crime and will be prosecuted.

We would also ask people to be extra cautious when lighting barbeques and bonfires. If you must have an open fire:

* Only use barbeques in suitable and safe area, never leave them unattended.

* Never use petrol, it can ignite quickly and soon get out of control. Only use approved lighting  fuels.

* Make sure it is downwind and at least 10 metres away from any buildings or structures.

* Clear dry vegetation, such as leaves, to form a circle of earth around the fire.

* Never leave fires unattended and make sure they are fully extinguished after use.

Media enquiries to communications adviser John Ballard on 01228 221752