Appeals issued after spate of woodland fires

Posted on Tuesday 18th June 2019 at 9:41 pm by SH (Editor)

Photo showing the aftermath of a small unauthorised fire in Savages Wood, after it was extinguished by a fire service crew.

The neighbourhood police team in Bradley Stoke is asking parents and carers to speak with their children about the dangers of starting fires after firefighters were called out five times over a period of less than two weeks to deal with small fires in a local wood.

Fire service crews from Patchway, Kingswood and Portishead fire stations attended the incidents, all of which were located in Savages Wood (behind Bradley Stoke leisure Centre). Two of the incidents were separated by less than three hours (on Sunday 12th May).

High pressure hose reels were used to extinguish the fires in three of the incidents with an aqua backpack and a bucket being used in the other two. In all cases, it is thought that the fires had been started deliberately.

Police attendance was not required on 12th May, however, following a further incident on 13th May, they were made aware that fire crews had spoken with teenagers who were in the area about “the risks and dangers of starting fires”.

On Friday 17th May, a member of the public called to report a tree stump had been set on fire in woodland near to the skate park. The call came in just before 7.30pm and patrolling officers attended within five minutes. Fire crews put the fire out by 7.45pm. Police say there were a number of teenagers in the area at the time, however no one was able to identify those responsible for starting the fire.

The Kingswood crew that attended the 13th May incident tweeted a photo showing a pile of large aerosol cans on the woodland floor, with the message: “Spent time emptying and making these aerosol cans inoperable after the fire was out.” It is not clear whether any aerosol cans had been thrown onto the fire. The Journal understands that staff at the nearby Tesco extra store have been asked to be on the alert after someone reported seeing boys buying a large quantity of hair spray aerosol cans at the self-service tills two days earlier.

There have also been reports of youths setting fire to aerosol cans and using them as flame throwers at the nearby skate park.

Anyone who can identify those responsible for starting these fires can get in touch with the neighbourhood team through the beat page on the police website, www.avonandsomerset.police.uk, or by calling 101.

Kirstie Webb, Risk Reduction Department manager for Avon Fire & Rescue Service, said:

“For some young people, an interest and curiosity in fire can, on occasion, develop into something far more dangerous, putting themselves, their family, friends and homes at risk. We are working closely with the police and local youth workers to get to the heart of the issue and are doing everything we can to eliminate deliberate fires in the area.”

“As a service, we work with individual children at home or school. We do not punish children, but help them to change their dangerous fire setting behaviour. Parents, schools or youth group are welcome to get in touch via our website and we will be in touch to help educate and influence younger children.”

A spokesperson for South Gloucestershire Council said:

“We are aware of a number of recent unauthorised fires that have been lit in Savages Wood, part of the Three Brooks Local Nature Reserve, in Bradley Stoke. As landowners of the reserve, we would like to remind local residents and visitors that fires, including BBQs are not permitted on the public open space, unless authorised by the council. Uncontrolled fires present a real danger to users of this reserve and have a negative impact on the ecology of the woodland.”

“The council promotes positive use of the woodland through activities such as Forest Schools. These educational activities are carried out by trained staff. Small, controlled fires relating to this activity are contained in a fire wok, which keeps the fire off the ground, so not to damage the woodland soils. These activities are monitored by the council to ensure best practice, for example ensuring the requirement to leave no trace of a fire is adhered to.”

Photo: Aftermath of a small unauthorised fire in Savages Wood that was attended by a crew from Kingswood Fire Station. A pile of aerosol cans lies on the ground, next to a high pressure hose. [Credit: @AFRSKingswood on Twitter]

This article originally appeared in the June 2019 issue of the Bradley Stoke Journal magazine (on page 26). The magazine is delivered FREE, EVERY MONTH (except August), to ALL 8,700 homes in Bradley Stoke. Phone 01454 300 400 to enquire about advertising or leaflet insertion.

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