Lives and homes put at risk by fires in woodland

PUBLISHED: 12:30 18 June 2016

Litter found on the West Hill plantation in Budleigh Salterton

Litter found on the West Hill plantation in Budleigh Salterton

Clinton Devon Estates

People are putting their lives at risk by burning rubbish in woodland in Budleigh Salterton, a forestry manager has warned.

John Wilding, head of forestry and environmental economy at Clinton Devon Estates (CDE), issued the warning after staff working at the West Hill Plantation, near Salterton Common, found evidence of recent fires – as well as large amounts of rubbish.

Mr Wilding and his team have started forestry works to clear windblown timber and thin the plantation, which is owned by CDE.

He said: “We were clearing up damage from last winter’s storms, as well as felling timber, when we discovered people had been digging large pits and burning all kinds of rubbish.

“It’s been quite dry of late and burning anything in woodland like this is not only illegal, it is just not clever – the blaze could easily get out of control very quickly, putting lives in danger, as well as posing a risk to nearby houses.

“Burning waste can release toxic chemicals and contaminate the soil, while leaving litter there is a criminal offence.

“We’ve spoken to the police so they can keep an eye out for any unusual activity.

“We would urge anyone to report anything suspicious there to us on 01395 443881 or to the police on 101.”

A spokesman for Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue said: “Individuals who are involved in starting these fires are potentially putting themselves and others at risk.

“After prolonged dry spells, such fires can spread very quickly and, in remote areas without water supplies, such difficult incidents can be a huge drain on the fire service’s resources and availability.

“This is an area that is popular with dog walkers and this could also lead to injured animals, if they come into contact with hot embers remaining from these fires.

“If people do want to have a camp fire, have them in the safe, designated areas and avoid open fires in the countryside.

“If people do see a fire in the open countryside, please report it immediately.”

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