FIREFIGHTERS are urging people to be careful in the countryside after tackling multiple heath fires this month.

The warning follows seven heathland fires in the Bournemouth and Poole area since the start of May.

Between Friday, May 18, and Tuesday, May 22, alone fire crews dealt with blazes at Turbary Common, Arne, and twice at St Catherine’s Hill near Christchurch.

Area manager for Dorset and Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service (DWFRS), Craig Baker, said: “We would urge people to take real care when enjoying the sunshine in our beautiful countryside. If you do want a campfire or barbecue, please make sure that you’re in a safe area and that the ashes are fully extinguished and damped down before you leave.

“Large wildfires are, thankfully rare but, when they do occur, they take a great deal of resources to bring under control, which impacts the availability of appliances for property fires and other emergencies.

“The damage to local wildlife is also significant, often destroying ecosystems that have taken years to build up.”

The charity RSPB said a number of birds were killed in a heath fire at its Arne nature reserve on Monday, May 21.

The blaze took hold of land south of the Coombe Heath trails.

Following the incident, RSPB Arne wrote on Twitter: “It could’ve been catastrophic. Luckily, @DWFire’s response was brill, but there were still bird casualties.”

The charity reminds people to stick to trails and be aware of the fire risk on flammable heathlands.

Fire crews had to tackle two heath fires in two days at St Catherine’s Hill near Christchurch. The area has suffered some devastating blazes in recent years.

DWFRS is advising people to avoid open fires in the countryside to reduce the risk of a heath fire. If a fire is necessary, make sure that it is in a designated safe area.

Also, never park across gateways – these must be kept clear along roads to allow emergency access. Put out cigarettes and other smoking materials properly before leaving a vehicle, and do not throw cigarette butts out of vehicles.

The service is also urging people not to leave bottles or glass in woodlands as sunlight shining through the glass can spark a fire.

Anyone who sees a fire in the countryside is urged to report it immediately by calling 999. People are warned not to try to tackle a fire themselves as, usually, they cannot be extinguished with a bucket of water.