DORSET Council is seeking agreement to look at measures prohibiting or controlling the use of disposable barbecues and other fire-related activities across the county.

This follows a number of incidents of fire damage across Dorset during the lockdown period as a result of disposable barbecues, including three bin fires on the Bournemouth seafront in late May and a small heath fire on St Catherines Hill on Friday April 19.

The most serious of these incidents was the recent fire at Wareham Forest which affected 220 hectares of heathland and was declared a major incident by the Fire and Rescue Service.

Councillor Ray Bryan, Portfolio Holder for Highways, Travel and Environment, said: “We were all saddened by the fire at Wareham Forest this spring.

“Not only was it devastating for the forest’s wildlife and habitat, it risked human life and would have been horrendous for the wider environment due to the resulting smoke.

“This is a complex issue, for example we cannot risk pushing the problem to land managed by organisations which may not have the resources or enforcement powers in place to prohibit activities which present a fire risk. We need an approach that works across the area."

The New Forest National Park Authority is pleading with retailers to stop selling disposable barbecues and for a continued ban on fires and barbecues in the open countryside as rangers revealed they were forced to extinguish 60 fires and barbecues in the New Forest in just one weekend.

Approval from Dorset Council’s Cabinet will be sought for council officers to work closely with Dorset and Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service, and other key stakeholders, to look at a range of enforcement options, and other alternatives to control or prohibit barbecues and other fire-related activities.

Cllr Bryan added: “The development of the options paper would enable us to understand how we can work effectively to cover all areas.

“We know we have wider support amongst Dorset residents to introduce new measures to help prevent further devastating fires like the recent one in Wareham, so now it’s up to us to establish what we can do.”

If you see a fire in the countryside, report it immediately by calling 999.