Staying safe from wildfires this season

Wildfires almost doubled in Surrey between 2022 to 2023

As summer approaches, Matt Oakley, Surrey Fire and Rescue Service's (SFRS) wildfire and national tactical advisor, shares everything you need to know to enjoy Surrey's beauty spots safely this summer.

What to do if you see a wildfire:

  • Call 999.
  • Provide an accurate location. Use tools like postcodes, ordnance survey grid references, or apps like What3Words to help responders locate the fire quickly.
  • Stay Safe. Avoid filming or approaching the fire. Move to a safe place and guide emergency services if possible.

Myth busting wildfires

Wetter winters and drier summers mean wildfires are becoming an increasing risk. Surrey is particularly prone due to its areas of heathland near urban areas. The large amount of winter rain we've had has provided the right moisture for spring growing conditions. This has created an abundance of vegetation which acts as fuel for wildfires.

Commons causes and how to reduce the risk

Between 2022 to 2023, SFRS responded to 553 wildfires in Surrey, spending over 13,000 hours in 2023 alone at these incidents. Wildfires are easy to start, and spread very quickly. Often through barbecues not being extinguished properly. Litter left on commons or heaths acting as fuel or cigarettes thrown on the ground. Wind and slopes can be a big factor too.

As we head into the dry summer months it's vital to protect Surrey's countryside spaces from the threat of wildfires. By following a few tips, you can be wildfire aware this summer.

To have a safe summer, my advice is to…

  • Avoid camping stoves or open fires in the countryside. They can quickly spread and get out of control. Switch your barbecue to a picnic.
  • Dispose of smoking materials properly. Throwing cigarette ends on the ground or out of a car window can start a wildfire.
  • Put rubbish in the bin or take it home. Bottles and glass can start wildfire as they magnify the sun.
  • Prepare your home or business. Cut down or clear areas of high fuel close to your home. Such as vegetation, bushes or piles of leaves. Keep guttering clear, and create low-vegetation zones.

Take a look at our short video from Ben. A volunteer for SFRS and countryside code champion. Find out more on be wildfire aware in the countryside.

Our response

Responding to wildfires has evolved. Aggressive firefighting is not always the best strategy. Sometimes, allowing a controlled burn is more effective. New equipment has improved firefighter safety and efficiency. Such as specialist off-road vehicles, new drones and protective fire gear.

Over the past 15 years, we've strengthened relationships with landowners and organisations like the Ministry of Defense. This has allowed us to enhance wildfire response. Regular training and familiarisation with local areas help us respond more effectively.

For more information from Matt and the team about all things wildfire and how to stay safe, visit wildfires on SFRS web pages.

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