DORSET residents are being asked to 'spread love not wildfires' as part of a barbecue safety campaign, following several devastating blazes in recent weeks.

‘BBQs Burn More Than Bangers’ is a campaign to remind people that barbecues are illegal on heathlands. Last week, Litter Free Dorset (LFD), the Urban Heath Partnership (UHP) and Dorset & Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service (DWFRS) announced the launch of new the campaign to prevent wildfire.

The campaign comes as fire crews have had to tackle one of the most devastating wildfires the county has ever seen. Fire crews are still working on damping down hot spots at Wareham Forest following the fire, a blaze which covered 190 hectares at its peak. Experts say it will take decades for the forest to recover.

Evidence of multiple disposable barbecues, campfires and glass bottles were found at the scene.

A discarded barbecue was also said to be the cause of a huge blaze which ravaged heath and gorse at Puddletown Forest last month and involved a major firefighting effort to bring it under control.

Dorset & Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service is urging people not to have bonfires or barbecues this weekend due to the increased risk of wildfires following the Wareham Forest fire.

Area Manager Craig Baker said: “In light of the devastation at Wareham Forest and the AMBER wildfire alert, we are asking for the public’s help in ensuring our resources can be used for the vital support of communities by not having campfires or using disposable barbecues in our forests and heathlands.

"Whilst we understand that the dry weather will leave many wanting to go out and enjoy it, we cannot stress the importance of being fire-aware enough. This incident is a prime example of how a moment of carelessness can escalate, and the destruction it can cause.”

Meanwhile, a spokesman for Litter Free Dorset said: "On average, Dorset is subject to more than 100 heathland wildfires a year, and a high proportion of these can be attributed to a heathland barbecue gone wrong. This campaign aims to raise awareness that it is illegal to barbecue on heathland and instead promote the use of alternative, safe, designated barbecuing destinations.

"As we enter in to a particularly dry summer period it is more important than ever for us to be responsible and only have barbecues either at home or in designated barbecue areas.

As part of the campaign, a new animation has been created to spread the message 'Spread Love Not Wildfires'.

To get involved with the campaign and help to reduce fires, Litter Free Dorset is asking residents to not barbecue on Dorset's heathlands. Instead, either pack a picnic or visit a designated barbecuing spot.

You can find suggested spots and hot barbecuing tips on the Litter Free Dorset website.

You can share your favourite barbecue pictures on social media with the hashtag #BBQsBurnMoreThanBangers or #SpreadLoveNotWildfire to spread awareness of the campaign, or print off a poster from LFD to stick in your window at home, in your shop or in your car.

If you see a fire on heathland, report it immediately. Please phone the fire service on 999 and leave the area as soon as possible.