Fire chief calls for a voluntary bonfire ban

A VOLUNTARY bonfire ban has been called for by Guernsey’s Chief Fire Officer, as the number of wildfires this summer is more than double the usual.

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There have been 37 fires out in the open, compared to 17 in 2021, five of which were started by bonfires and three which were caused by disposable barbecues. One at Bon Port (pictured right) was contained earlier this summer. There have also been 21 false alarms due to contained burning.

But the fire service is concerned about the potential danger of any one of these fires.

‘I’d ask that people please avoid using disposable barbecues or lighting bonfires when it is this hot and dry,’ said Guernsey Fire & Rescue chief fire officer Jon Le Page.

‘Guernsey and the rest of the Bailiwick is, right now, as dry as a tinder box, and it only takes one person acting irresponsibly to start a fire that causes very serious damage.’

Potentially-serious bush fires have also been tackled in Alderney and Sark.

‘Many people have been comparing the excellent summer weather we’ve been having so far to that of the 1976 heatwave, but the prevailing memory of that year from many of my previous colleagues from the Fire Service will be the large-scale and dangerous fire we experienced on the south cliffs,’ Mr Le Page added.

‘We need to ensure we avoid another situation like that again.’

He said conditions were ‘probably just about right’ for a repeat of the situation.

An emergency meeting was recently called with the States to discuss the threat, but the ban is set to remain voluntary so islanders are asked act responsibly with fires, barbecues, and cigarette butts.

‘We as a collective do not feel we need to implement extra legislation or put any extra bans out – it’s up to us as a community to manage our behaviour to ensure these problems don’t happen.

‘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.’

The UK is looking at banning disposable barbecues.

‘I am not alone in my concerns – all my colleagues in the UK are calling for the same thing,’ Mr Le Page said.

Crew commander Gavin Robins added that it could take hundreds of thousands of litres of water to put out a wildfire.

‘During these particularly dry periods, we have a very limited water supply on the island.’

Guernsey’s Beach Code states barbecues can be lit between 5pm and midnight on north and west coast beaches, excluding the Richmond end of Vazon.

Controlled fires are allowed below the hightide mark, and at least four metres away from vegetation.

Without written permission, bonfires and barbecues are banned on most publicly-owned land under the Places of Recreation Ordinance (1975).

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