The past week has seen a red alert heat warning issued for the first time in the UK, bringing with it numerous wildfires. Gamekeepers up and down the country have been working night and day to tackle wildfires, as well as being on constant alert for signs of new fires or anything that might spark a fire. We would like to thank them for their hard work and dedication.
We would also like to thank the fire services who have worked tirelessly to put out wildfires triggered by the heatwave, from central London to the Peak District Moors. Many of these fires have been in urban areas which have rarely – if ever – experienced wildfires before. Firefighters serving these regions are unlikely to have experience of wildfires – which are very different from house or vehicle fires – so it is a credit to them that they have dealt with them so professionally.
As well as being on hand to put out wildfires, many keepers manage their land or shoot with wildfire prevention in mind; by creating firebreaks, carrying out controlled burns and cutting to reduce fuel load, restoring peat bogs which hold vast amounts of water, and putting up signage reminding the public of the danger of wildfires.
The National Gamekeepers’ Organisation are keen to do whatever we can to tackle the issue of wildfires, which are becoming increasingly prevalent across the Northern Hemisphere.watch and share it by clicking here.Earlier this year we produced a video highlighting the dangers of portable barbecues, and demonstrating just how fast a wildfire can spread. This was sent to many regional fire services for them to share, and was endorsed by the England and Wales Wildfire Forum, with whom we work closely. If you haven’t yet seen it, you can
We have also made a film about the importance of being able to control the fuel load, a big factor in preventing hot summer fires. You can see this film here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ERTmuEgKFEU&t=80s
We were pleased to note that Green Party MP Caroline Noakes asked the Prime Minister in Prime Minister’ Questions on Wednesday whether he would ban disposable barbecues. Although he stopped short of agreeing to this, he did reply that “it’s clearly insane to take a disposable barbecue onto dry grass”; a response we would agree with. We were delighted when Aldi and Waitrose decided to ban entirely the sale of disposable barbecues. Other stores such as Morrisons and the Co-op have banned their sale in certain regions which is a welcome step but, in our opinion, a complete ban would be preferable.
The NGO have also been working closely with various organisations to help develop a Defra-funded course for wildfire mitigation and prescribed fire operations. While gamekeepers’ experience of heather burning is second to none and the knowledge they have has been handed down through the decades, this experience is hard to measure.
Accreditation is now critical for any robust wildfire mitigation plan, and having training can both prove competency, and improve your own skills. For more information please read our article on the new courses by clicking here. Our regional development officers work closely with fire services and the England and Wales Wildfire Forum on new developments and looking at how we, as gamekeepers, can help them to tackle wildfires.
Lobbying is also an important part of our work, and we regularly engage with politicians – both locally and nationally – on all manner of subjects, including the dangers of wildfires and the importance of being able to use controlled burning to reduce wildfire risk.
Engaging with the public is equally important – if not more so – and this is something we try to do through our output, including our social media pages, YouTube videos, and on our stands at various shows around the country. Wildfires are not going to disappear overnight; indeed it looks as if they will become increasingly common in years to come. Raising awareness of all wildfire triggers – even a discarded cigarette end or broken bottle – is vital, and something that all of us can do.