With the warmer, drier weather the Island has been enjoying, the Department of Environment, Food and Agriculture (DEFA) and the Isle of Man Fire and Rescue Service are urging the public to take care when in the countryside due to the heightened risk of wildfire.
Minister for Environment, Food and Agriculture, Geoffrey Boot MHK said:
'The warmer weather is most welcome – especially as we enter a long holiday weekend. However, the recent dry spell has left many areas of heather and gorse tinder-dry. This vegetation could easily ignite and a fire could quickly spread out of control with disastrous consequences for the local environment and bio-diversity.
'In recent days and weeks there have been a number of large scale wildfires in the Peak District National Park and the Scottish Highlands.
'We want everyone to enjoy our beautiful countryside – through initiatives like 2018 Year of Our Island and the Department’s 'Warden’s Walks' series – but to do so responsibly. It only takes a discarded cigarette or small fire not being put our properly, for things to quickly escalate.'
On the Island, the fire service has dealt with two fires in the last week, both started as controlled fires, but which quickly escalated to become out of control. These types of incident require significant resources from the fire service and could potentially divert crews away from other jobs. The advice is to delay burning until conditions are more favourable.
Before any controlled fire, the Fire Service would remind all persons to contact the Emergency Services Joint Control Room on 697327, giving the location of the fire and contact details of responsible persons.
Ground nesting birds such as curlew, skylark, meadow pipits, red grouse and birds of prey such as hen harrier and short eared owls are actively nesting now and any fire could have a devastating impact.
Large swathes of DEFA’s estate that are open to the public are particularly vulnerable and include the upland heather moors, forestry plantations and areas of coastal heath such as the Ayres National Nature Reserve.
The public is therefore asked to comply with the following:
- Do not light bonfires, camp fires or barbeques anywhere near combustible vegetation
- Do not light and release Chinese Lanterns
- Do not place disposable barbeques directly on the ground and preferably avoid their use altogether
- Do not dispose of smouldering cigarettes out of car windows, particularly whilst driving through the uplands
- Take your litter home with you - discarded glass bottles can ignite fires
As controlled burning of upland heath is undertaken over the winter months, any fire during the spring or summer is very likely to be accidental and should be reported immediately by dialling 999.