Fire chiefs are warning Dorset residents to stay safe and be vigilant when outdoors during the coronavirus pandemic - and to avoid having barbecues and bonfires.

Dorset & Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service (DWFRS) says it needs the help of the public to ensure they are being safe when going outdoors for their daily exercise so brigade resources are not used up at a critical time.

The message comes during a spell of dry and warmer weather when the risk of fire spreading increases - and also after tips have closed prompting more people to think about burning rubbish at home.

In line with Government guidelines, you should minimise time spent outside of the home to prevent spread of the virus.

DWFRS Area Manager Ian Jeary said: “During these unprecedented times, the statement from the Government is a simple one - ‘Stay Home, Save Lives’. Where you do go out for your daily exercise, please consider how you are using the outdoor space. The same applies in your garden.

"We are asking the public to seriously consider if they need to have a bonfire or barbecue. These can get out of control very easily. Although we are still providing an emergency response to all incidents, this does pull us away from other vital work to support our communities and means our firefighters are potentially exposing themselves to coronavirus.”

He added: “With garden waste collections suspended and household recycling centres closed, we are starting to see an increase in garden bonfires getting out of control. Please consider if you must burn garden waste. Any bonfire should be sited well away from buildings, fences, trees and garden structures, and have a garden hose to hand in case the fire starts to accelerate. Please also be considerate of neighbours and always call 999 if you think the fire is spreading.”

The service has the following advice for enjoying the outdoors safely:

* Avoid open fires in the countryside. If you must have a fire, make sure that you’re in a designated safe area

* Put out cigarettes and other smoking materials properly before you leave your vehicle

* Do not throw cigarette ends out of your vehicle. They could start a fire and destroy surrounding countryside

* Site bonfires well away from buildings, fences, trees and garden structures

* Have a garden hose to hand in case the fire starts to get out of control

* Never use flammable liquids such as petrol or paraffin to start a bonfire

* If you see a fire in the countryside, report it immediately. Do not try to tackle a fire yourself; usually they can’t be put out with a bucket of water. Please call the fire service and leave the area as soon as possible.

* Ensure that you know your location or a landmark so you can direct firefighters to the scene

* If you’re intending to have a bonfire, please advise Fire Control by using the form on the website

* Make sure you know the Countryside Code - visit