Warning over countryside safety after Falmer field fire

Fire at Falmer (Photograph: Eddie Mitchell)
Fire at Falmer (Photograph: Eddie Mitchell)

Firefighters are urging the public to take extra care in the countryside, after six fire engines were called out to tackle a blaze in a Falmer field last week.

East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service (ESFRS) said every year in the UK, 1,700 farm buildings and 66,000 acres of grassland are destroyed by fire.

David Kemp, head of community safety at ESFRS, said: “We are very lucky to have many areas of beautiful countryside in East Sussex and Brighton and Hove. Unfortunately we know that even the best-intentioned people can inadvertently cause damage, risking property and lives. We would ask everyone to make that extra effort to take care of our countryside this summer, so we can all enjoy it safely.”

He used the example of the fire in Falmer last Wednesday (August 16), and a fire at a farm in Hankham just before 11pm on Saturday (August 19), when around 100 hay bales caught alight. Pevensey firefighters used breathing apparatus and hosereel jets to put the fire out.

As part of ESFRS Summer Safety campaign, it gave the following advice:

Farmers

– Do you know how to protect your land and property from fire?

- If you allow visitors or camping on your farm, ensure all barbecues are properly supervised and do not allow the lighting of open fires on the property. Make sure you only allow camping and picnicking in selected areas.

- Have you checked that fire danger warning signs are in place?

- Hay and straw should be removed from the field as soon as possible after harvesting.

- Are you storing it separately from other buildings, particularly those housing fuels, agrochemicals and machinery? Is it in stacks of reasonable size, spaced at least ten metres apart? Is it stored separately from livestock housing?

- Have you ensured that petrol, diesel and other fuels are stored in secure areas and storage tank outlets are padlocked?

- Are you keeping your fertilisers and pesticides under lock and key?

- Have you recently checked that open water supplies are being properly maintained for firefighting?

- Are you disposing of refuse safely and on a regular basis?

- When did you last check unoccupied areas on your farm? Are they safe and secure? Have you made sure there is no unnecessary accumulation of combustible materials?

Campers and ramblers

- Avoid using open fires in the countryside

- Sunlight shining through glass can start large fires - take glass bottles/jars home or put them in a waste or recycling bin

- Keep young children and ball games away from barbecues

- Extinguish cigarettes and other smoking materials properly

- Only use barbecues in suitable and safe areas and never leave them unattended

- Ensure that your barbecue is fully extinguished and cold before disposing of the contents

- Only camp and picnic in designated areas

- Obey safety signs

- Never throw cigarette ends out of car windows, they can ruin whole fields of crops

If a fire breaks out

- Call 999 immediately.

- It can be hard to give the location for an open area so mention any landmarks, such as a public house or a church in the vicinity.

- Don't tackle fires yourself. Always leave it to the professionals.