'Pack a picnic instead' - warnings over wildfires in Devon and Somerset

  • Watch Manager Simon Lott, from Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service, told ITV News West Country the region has a "very large wildfire risk"

Firefighters and wildlife experts are urging people to pack picnics instead of BBQs this summer in a bid to prevent wildfires in the region.

Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service and the RSPB have joined forces to warn people of the accidental risk fires pose, both to people's safety and the environment, in the drier months.

Simon Lott, Watch Manager for Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service, said the region has a "very large wildfire risk."

Multiple wildfires have broken out in heathland and moorland across the region in recent years, including on Dartmoor, during the drier, summer months.

Firefighters say wildfires are often started accidentally.

Mr Lott said: "When fires take hold over an extensive area, they're heavily resource intensive and they're also incredibly dangerous.

"They're dangerous to the public, dangerous to livestock, dangerous to the environment and biodiversity, and they're also dangerous to the firefighters who are responding in order to fight them and get them under control."

Mr Lott added that wildfires can also have a devastating impact on the environment's biodiversity.

Mr Whitehead said many birds nest on or close to the ground.

Tony Whitehead, RSPB Communications Manager, said many people don't realise that some species of birds nest on or close to the ground.

"You've got to think of heathers as being like mini forests," he explained. "So the birds will be nesting in amongst the heaths at ground level."

He added that some animals, such as reptiles, cannot always escape the fires.

"In a place like this, you've got common lizards, you've got grass snakes and adders, and sometimes the firest move really quickly, and they can't necessarily get the speed up to escape them and so they will perish as well," he said.

"It's just another reason to please take care when you come to these places - enjoy them, but do so responsibly," he added.