Think before you burn, think before you bin, think before you throw - these are the reminders central to a campaign being launched by the Guernsey Fire & Rescue Service and Agriculture, Countryside and Land Management Services today.
The #BeFireSmart campaign hopes to encourage islanders to be fire conscious as we head into the summer, in an effort to prevent out-of-control fires, and in turn, protect the Bailiwick's landscapes and countryside.
The campaign will focus on three areas:
- Beach barbeques and their proper disposal
- Avoiding burning garden waste in a bonfire during hot and dry weather
- Discouraging littering items which could start fires, such as cigarettes and glass bottles - an act which is illegal in and of itself
With the particularly hot and dry weather Guernsey and Alderney experienced last year, there was a rise in the number of wildfires and burns which grew out of control. This led to the Chief Fire Officer asking the islands to follow a voluntary fire ban and a voluntary ban on beach barbeques, which then brought the number of fires back down.
Chief Fire Officer Jon Le Page said:
"Last year the public were very conscious to follow our advice following our plea for a voluntary fire ban, and we saw a reduction in the number of serious fires we had to attend, however this year we wanted to get ahead and put fire safety into people's minds before the weather heats up.
"We'd like people to think before they light a bonfire, which could smoulder underground for over a day after the fire has been put out. We'd like people to think before throwing a hot disposable barbeque in a plastic litter bin. And we'd like people to think before they flick a cigarette butt into a dry hedge row. If as a community, we can come together and keep these things in our minds, we can avoid fires starting which can easily get out of control. We want people to be able to enjoy the summer, but we also want people to keep our islands safe."
While all of the fires last year were quickly attended by the GFRS and brought under control, a serious fire from 1976, which was started during a heatwave, still lives in the memory of many firefighters. The fire was large scale and dangerous and spread across the cliffs on the south coast.
Emily Coule, Natural Environment Officer, ACLMS, said:
"We enjoyed excellent weather last summer, but the long periods of dry sunny weather can also present a significant risk if we don't act responsibly when it comes to fire. It just takes one of us to light a bonfire in a bone-dry field or to throw a glass bottle into a hedge on a cliff path for a fire to start, and if they are not caught quickly, they can cause damage that affects our environment for years.
"We are fortunate to have a very responsive Fire Service in Guernsey, but it only takes one incident that is called in late for something to get out of control. We'd encourage everyone to keep this on their mind and to help protect our beautiful Bailiwick."
The States of Guernsey and GFRS will be rolling out key messaging on the three issues as we head into the summer to remind the public to #BeFireSmart.