Difficult conditions for firefighters battling a large-scale fire at Harlestone Firs on Monday night were exacerbated by members of the public who came out to look at the fire, according to fire officials.
Northamptonshire Fire and Rescue Service (NFRS) has sent out a strong warning to the public urging people to take extra care after the hot weather saw a 42 per cent increase in fire incidents across the county.
Between June 10 and July 7 NFRS recorded 306 fire incidents, up from 215 for the same period in 2017, and has dealt with more than 100 grassland, woodland and crop fires since April 1.
These include a large heathland fire which broke out last night, Monday this week (July 16) behind Lodge Farm Industrial Estate in Harlestone Firs, Northampton, which required six NFRS pumps, a water bowser and assistance from a local farmer to put out.
Mereway Station Commander Ro Cutler, who led the response at the scene, said: “This was a large scrubland fire which due to the dry conditions and the wind spread to involve approximately 1500sq metres of grass and hedgerow.
“Large amounts of smoke were produced and it took significant resources to bring under control. Firefighters were working in difficult conditions which were exacerbated by members of the public risking their lives to come and look at the fire, with some ignoring our requests to leave the scene.
“If the wind had changed direction or picked up the flames could have been blown towards them and it would have been almost impossible for anyone to out-run them. I understand people are curious about incidents but for your own safety, please stay away while we deal with them.”
Crews used hose reels to damp the area down and protect nearby buildings, as well as beaters to help smother the flames. A local farmer also used a plough to create a fire break around the perimeter.
It is thought the incident, which led to more than 50 people calling 999, could have been started by a carelessly discarded cigarette end.
SC Cutler said: “In the ongoing dry conditions we would ask everyone to be responsible and take extra care to help prevent incidents like this.
“While dealing with grass and outdoor fires we could be needed elsewhere, perhaps in a life-threatening situation, so please make sure you fully extinguish cigarettes and dispose of them properly.
“We would also ask people to talk to children about why they should never start deliberate fires, not least because they could be seriously injured themselves - in dry or breezy conditions flames can spread incredibly quickly.”
Preventing outdoor fires
Avoid lighting open fires in the countryside and talk to children and young people about the danger of starting deliberate fires
Make sure cigarettes and other smoking materials are extinguished properly
Never throw cigarette ends out of car windows; they can ruin whole fields of crops or start grass fires
Sunlight shining though glass can start a fire. Take glass bottles and jars home or put them in a waste or recycling bin
If you come across a fire in the countryside alert the emergency services by ringing 999