Fire service bosses urge people to be careful as string of wildfires break out in Milton Keynes
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Already today (Monday) there have been four incidents and only prompt action from the fire service has kept the flames from spreading.
And over the weekend there were seven more wildfires – three of them in the same Bletchley nature reserve and beauty spot.
All have destroyed grassland, hedgerows and wildlife habitat. And they all came despite strong warnings from Bucks Fire and Rescue Service for people to be careful with candles, cigarettes and disposable barbecues in the current tinderbox conditions caused by recent heatwaves.
Today’s drama started just before 1am at Leon recreation ground in Bletchley, where grass and trees were on fire close to a path. The firefighters used water backpacks to extinguish the blaze.
Just after 4.30am, crews were called out to Paddocks lane in Woburn Sands, where there was a fire involving trees and shrubs.
At 11.22am it was the turn of Middleton, where a large area of grass and bushes caught fire on a redway. An area of around 40 metres by 20 metres was damaged. Police have been notified by the firefighters, which means arson could be suspected.
Exactly an hour later, a blaze broke out in grass and bushes on the same estate, this time in Venturer gate. Once again, this has been reported to police.
Police have also been notified about the fires at the Blue Lagoon nature reserve in Bletchley that happened yesterday (Sunday) afternoon.
Firefighters were called at 2.49pm to a fire thought to be started by a disposable barbecue. It involved dry grass and a hedge and destroyed an area of around 30 metres by 30 metres.
While crews were dealing with that blaze, they were alerted to a second fire on the opposite side of the Blue Lagoon. This one measured around 50 metres by 50 metres and is believed to have started in a pile logs and then spread.
Firefighters used four water backpacks, buckets of water, a beater and a hay drag to contain it. They were at the scene for two hours.
They had also been called to the Blue Lagoon the previous day (Saturday), when a wooden footbridge was smouldering. The burned section had to be cut away and soaked.
Other incidents over the weekend included a fire affecting a fence and grass in Bingham Close on Emerson Valley, a blaze in allotments at McConnel Drive in Wolverton, a hedge fire in Welsummer Grove on Shenley Brook End and a grassland fire in Harlow Crescent on Oxley Park.
But the blaze that created the most smoke and prompted multiple calls was on Saturday afternoon in Little Linford Lane, Newport Pagnell
Crews arrived at 2.26pm to find hedges and a field of grass well alight. The fire affected the field, a hedge, a fence and the motorway embankment, spreading to an area was around 100 metres by 40 metres.
Thames Valley Police have been notified of the incident.
The spate of wildfires began last month with a major incident on Walnut Tree. A simple fence fence spread rapidly in the heat and, despite the efforts of up to60 firefighters, burned down the Kiddi Caru children’s nursery and three nearby houses. More properties have suffered smoke damage and multiple vehicles were also damaged.
As a result, the Met Office issued a Level 5 Exceptional Fire Severity Warning for Milton Keynes and other parts of Buckinghamshire.
The Fire Severity Index (FSI) is the highest that can be given. It does not indicate the risk of a fire occurring, but the likely severity of any fire which does occur in an area at that time. It is based upon wind speed, temperature, time of year and rainfall.
Buckinghamshire Fire and Rescue Service Community Safety and Safeguarding Manager, Jo Cook, said: “Field fires have the potential to spread quickly and, because of their remote locations, can be physically demanding on firefighters who use beaters to help put them out.
“While it may seem like only grassland has been destroyed the harsh reality is that it often involves standing crops, the culmination of months of hard work for farmers. As well as the physical loss this also has a financial implication for the landowner and can impact on subsequent crop yields.”
Jo added: “In advance of this latest Met Office warning about fire severity, we are once again appealing to people to think twice about any activities they are planning to enjoy.
“Do you really need to use a wood burner, ight solid fuel barbecues at home, in parks or in the countryside, celebrate with fireworks, sky lanterns or sparklers or burn outdoor candles or oil lamps?”
Bucks fire officer Adam Moore said: “Summer is a great time to have a wedding or gather for an open-air evening celebration, and we don’t want to spoil anyone’s enjoyment.
“However the tinder dry conditions result in the strong risk that any stray spark could spread much faster and further than you could ever anticipate. If you were planning to celebrate using fire related items – please reconsider! They may look pretty but the effects of an accidental fire will dampen the party spirit.”
He said this message also applies to people who are clearing waste with bonfires.
“Despite requests made nationally and our local requests for people not to light them, BFRS is still attending incidents where deliberately lit bonfires have spread to the surrounding vegetation putting firefighters, people, property, wildlife, livestock and the countryside at risk. So please think twice about your activities and don’t risk it – don’t light it!”