Wildfires are fires that burn vegetation, such as grass, heather, woodland, crops and scrubland. While wildfires tend to be more common in the Spring and Summer, they can occur at any time of year.
Some wildfires start as the result of natural causes, such as lightning strikes. However, the majority of wildfires in Northumberland and across the UK are started by human actions such as smouldering BBQs, campfires and open fires, discarded litter on the ground, the loss of control of controlled burning, and arson.
Northumberland Fire and Rescue Service and our partner agencies sometimes need to mobilise significant resources to bring wildfires under control. There have been numerous wildfires in recent years in Northumberland and these have burned for anywhere between a few hours to more than one month.
Wildfires can be extremely dangerous, challenging to extinguish and can cause significant damage and disruption to our outdoor environment.
The Met Office climate projections for the UK indicate significant temperature rises in the decades ahead for both winter and summer. Extreme weather is predicted to increase in frequency and intensity, leading to the potential of more frequent and damaging wildfires.
Wildfire damage at Kyloe Woods in Northumberland in June 2021.
What can I do about wildfires?
We all have a responsibility to protect our countryside and open spaces for current and future generations. Everyone can play an important part in helping to prevent wildfires from starting in the first place.
When you use or visit the countryside, always follow the Countryside Code. It includes the rules you must follow when you’re enjoying parks and waterways, coast and countryside:
extinguish all campfires and barbecues properly
dispose of all smoking material properly, ensuring it is completely extinguished
take any litter home with you
clear away any bottles, glasses and any unbroken glass – magnification from sun rays could cause a fire
leave campfires or barbecues unattended and always extinguish them properly after use
dispose of hot ash from campfires or barbeques as this can cause fires. Wait for ash to cool before disposal.
light a campfire or barbecue if you have seen an extreme fire risk notice
use a flying lantern (also known as Chinese, wish or sky lantern)
If you see a fire in the countryside, call 999 immediately.
You must follow the signs in the countryside that tell you where you can go and who can use the right of way.
If you undertake controlled/prescribed burning to manage your land, always follow the Heather and Grass Burning Rules and Heather and Grass etc. Burning Regulations 2021. You should also always follow the Heather and Grass Burning Code.
If you think your site or land is at higher risk of wildfire, please contact us and we can give you some advice.
Everyone can play their part in helping to prevent wildfires. Please follow our fire safety advice when you are outdoors and if you see an extreme fire risk sign in the countryside, please be especially careful and do not start any fires.
What are we doing about wildfires?
Wildfires tend to occur during the warmer and drier periods of the year, but we work all year round to help protect our communities from wildfires:
We have specialist wildfire equipment and deliver specialist wildfire training to all our firefighters. We also deliver wildfire training to other fire and rescue services and organisations.
We have created Wildfire Hub Stations at Bellingham, Rothbury, Wooler and Haltwhistle. Firefighters on these stations receive a higher level of wildfire training and have additional wildfire equipment, because most of our wildfires tend to happen within these station areas.
We have formed a specialist group of Wildfire Support Officers and National Wildfire Tactical Advisors who are deployed to large and complex wildfire incidents to provide specialist tactical advice.
We are never standing still and are always looking to improve how we prevent, prepare for and respond to wildfire. To help us do this, we work with a wide range of partners at local, national and international level to help improve our knowledge, understanding of wildfire issues.
For example, Chief Fire Officer Paul Hedley is currently the lead officer for wildfire in the UK for the National Fire Chief’s Council (NFCC). Our Wildfire Team also actively supports and contributes to the work of the Northumberland Fire Group and the England and Wales Wildfire Forum.
This partnership working is key to continually improving cooperation, understanding, and awareness about wildfires.
Our wildfire training helps keep people safer and better equipped to respond to wildfires - find out more below: