Guernsey’s Chief Fire Officer has called on islanders to take part in a voluntary ban on bonfires and disposable barbeques (BBQs) following a spate of wildfires.
In a statement yesterday [11 August] Jon Le Page said all the Bailiwick islands were “tinderboxes” due to the recent dry weather. The Guernsey Fire & Rescue Service (GFRS) has already responded to 37 fires this year, compared to 17 last year.
WATCH: Chief Fire Officer, Jon Le Page, urges islanders to take part in a voluntary ban on bonfires and disposable BBQs.
“We have seen the fires across the UK and there’s no way we want to have fires like that locally,” said Mr Le Prevost.
“If a fire in the open were to get out of control, then the risk to property, and indeed possibly the risk to life, are very real and present. We need Guernsey to come together in the way we did during covid times; if we do this then I’m sure we can mitigate these risks.
“I’m calling for everybody to take part in a voluntary ban of bonfires and disposable BBQs, which have been the cause for a number of fires recently.”
Pictured: The Guernsey Fire and Rescue Service has attended 37 wildfires this year, including at Les Gouffre.
The Places of Recreation (PoR) Ordinance (1975) bans fires or BBQs without written permission on most publicly owned land, including cliff paths, coastal car parks and parks.
Guernsey’s Beach Code states that beach BBQs can be lit between 17:00 and 00:00 on the island’s north and west beaches, excluding the Richmond end of Vazon. Controlled fires are also allowed below the hightide mark, and at least four metres away from vegetation.
“The island’s Beach Code, the PoR Ordinance, and various other sets of rules which apply to the Vale Common and the other islands in the Bailiwick help protect us from wildfires, but we do need people to abide by these rules,” said Mr Le Page.
Pictured: Jon Le Page said South Coast fires, including the one pictured at Bon Port, pose falling risks and accessibility challenges for GFRS crews.
Mr Le Page continued: “We would also like to ask people who are looking to start bonfires or fires on private property to strongly consider waiting until it is not so dry. Even if a fire is started and then put out on private property, when it is this hot, we have known them to smoulder under the ground and reignite somewhere nearby.
“If we all partake in a voluntary bonfire ban, we can minimise the risk to our Bailiwick.”
Crew Commander, Gavin Robins, has been in the GFRS for over 20 years.
“With global warming, there has been a noticeable difference in prolonged high temperatures over the years including the heatwave and drought this year. These sorts of incidents [wildfires] can spread very quickly because the vegetation is so dry,” he said.
Pictured: GFRS Crew Commander, Gavin Robins, said fire hoses hold up to 90 litres of water when full and are challenging to move.
Mr Le Page and Mr Robins said fires on the South Coast were particularly challenging for the crews.
“The South Coast cliffs are very difficult to access; it can take a long time to get to certain spots. We also have challenges with water access on the South Coast, with the nearest hydrants in some places being up to two kilometres away,” said Mr Robins.
“We have limited services on duty and the increased number of incidents can put a strain on crews. We have a call back service and we often find ourselves calling crews back to come and assist with incidents."
Pictured: An area of land burnt at Les Prevote Watch Tower.
In addition to taking part in the voluntary ban on bonfires and disposable BBQs, Mr Robins called on islanders to consider the States’ water usage advice.
“We have a limited water supply on this island. We use hundreds of thousands of litres of water to deal with incidents. Firs fires can continue to burn for up to a few days and restart fires in the area, so we inevitably have to return and use more water at a later date,” he said.
“It would be hugely helpful for people to follow the water usage advice to ensure that we have sufficient water supplies.”
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