THE fire service has warned of a 'perfect storm' of conditions for wildfires in Dorset.

The risk of wildfires in the county has been assessed as 'extreme' - which is the highest it can be - and residents and visitors are being urged to protect local heath and woodlands by not having barbecues or camp fires.

The messages comes after a blaze that destroyed over 220 hectares of Wareham Forest.

Dorset & Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service has warned that worse could yet happen if people ignore safety warnings.

A spokesman for the fire service said: "The recent dry weather, combined with more hot days and steady winds forecast, have created a ‘perfect storm’ of conditions for wildfires to take hold.

"Alongside this, the easing of coronavirus lockdown restrictions has seen an increase in people getting out into the countryside."

Steps you can take to avoid starting a wildfire:

  • 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
  • If you see a fire in the countryside, report it immediately. Do not tackle a fire yourself, unless it can 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 the fire service

Assistant Chief Fire Officer Byron Standen said: “We do understand that people want to enjoy the good weather while it lasts but it is vital that everyone takes sensible precautions while the ground and foliage is so dry – the destruction of Wareham Forest shows what can happen.”

He added: “We are asking people to do things a little bit differently while the risk is so high. Please do not take a barbecue or have a campfire, maybe take a picnic instead. Just a moment’s thought could prevent a serious fire. "People living around heath and woodland should avoid having bonfires and those carrying out land management works should make sure that none of the machinery in use will emit sparks.

"As a service, we cannot afford to have more incidents like Wareham Forest, which has involved firefighters from every one of our 50 fire stations.

"As a community, we cannot afford to lose any more of our natural habitat. We can only achieve this if everyone plays their part.”