Wildfire warning as dry spell continues

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Environmentalists and the Jersey Fire and Rescue Service are warning Islanders to take extra care as all it takes is a carelessly discarded cigarette or a camp fire to get out of control to devastate places such as Les Landes, which are home to rare species of plants and wildlife.

On Tuesday, firefighters were called out twice to the headland between St Brelade’s Bay and Ouaisné after sparks from camp fires lit in German fortifications set undergrowth alight.

‘During this period of exceptionally dry weather, Jersey Fire and Rescue advise against the lighting of a bonfire,’ Watch Commander Andy Gallie said.

‘It’s very easy for fires to spread and rapidly get out of control, with the potential to cause extensive damage to Jersey’s natural environment and put Jersey Fire and Rescue’s finite resources under strain.’

The second call to the area at 23.20 pm took around two hours to bring under control as the crew had to thoroughly damp down the surrounding area.

States senior countryside officer Tim Liddiard, who also writes a series on Sites of Special Interest for the JEP, said the headland is popular with people on hot summer evenings who like to light camp fires.

‘If the present conditions continue these areas are just going to get drier and they will be at even greater risk from wildfires that can take hold very quickly,’ he said.

‘People visiting coastal heathlands have got be aware of this risk and be very careful when discarding cigarettes or barbecues. At places like Les Landes fires usually get started along the side of the access tracks and adjacent roads.’

The Island’s coastal heathlands are concentrated along the north coast and in the south-west of the Island between Noirmont and Corbière, and are some of the most distinctive and spectacular aspects of Jersey’s maritime environment.

They are home to hundreds of rare species of plants and wildlife including the green lizard, blue-winged grasshopper, spotted rock rose, sand crocus, skylarks, Dartford warblers and linnets.

The last major heathland fire was in August 2006 when a firework ignited the headland above Bouley Bay and went on to destroy more than half a square mile across the cliff tops to Tas de Geon.

Jersey Fire and Rescue station commander Mike Baudains said Islanders only had to look at the wildfires that have been occurring in the UK and Greece to see the dangers.

‘Everywhere has been having a dry season and it looks like it is going to continue,’ he said. ‘We appreciate that everyone wants to take advantage of the Island’s environment in such weather so we are asking them to be extra careful.

‘We are asking people to properly dispose of barbecues, not to light fires outdoors or dispose of cigarettes or lit matches along the roadside.’

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