Fire service called to twice as many heath fires this year than the whole of 2012 (From Bournemouth Echo)
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Fire service called to twice as many heath fires this year than the whole of 2012
A COST of the hottest and driest summer for seven years has been a disturbing increase in Dorset wildfires, figures reveal.
Already this year, Dorset Fire and Rescue Service (DFRS) has attended more than twice as many heath fires than the whole of 2012.
Between January and September 1, this year, DFRS recorded 62 heath fires. The total for 2012 – with its summer punctuated by heavy rains – was just 30.
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Out of 2012’s total of 30 fires, 19 (63 per cent) were malicious. So far this year, 40 (64.5 per cent) have been recorded as malicious.
DFRS arson education officer Gaynor Mant said there had not been a huge rise in malicious fires as a percentage of total fires.
“What we have seen this year is a beautiful, long dry summer which has meant the ground is drier so heathland or grass fires will start easily,” she said.
“We are aware that arson incidents are still occurring and we are working hard with our colleagues in the police and other partners to educate young people about the dangers of fire setting.”
The increase has proved a headache for fire service bosses, as heathland blazes often require sizeable resources and manpower to bring under control.
This in turn leaves controllers scrambling to ensure cover is moved into areas where fire engines have been deployed from.
Earlier this summer DFRS group manager Andy Fox, left, said firefighters could have reached a devastating property fire in Swanage even faster if the service hadn’t been tied up tackling a deliberately-set wildfire, that eventually destroyed around three acres of protected heath at Studland.
No one was injured in the property blaze, and DFRS crews from Wareham, Hamworthy and Poole reached the scene within 10 minutes of the 999 call.
During a fire last month, around one hectare of protected heathland was destroyed at Hamworthy’s Ham Common.
Borough of Poole nature conservation officer Jez Martin, left, explained it would take the area at least a decade to return to its pre-fire state.
Mrs Mant said: “We have been out and about on the heath over the summer keeping our eyes peeled for anything suspicious, talking to people who regularly use it and reminding them what to do if they see something unusual.”
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