Be wildfire aware

We want to keep you and our countryside safe from the dangers of wildfires and fires in the open.

Here you’ll find information to:

  • learn about wildfires
  • know what to do if you come across one
  • prevent wildfires from happening.
A photo of the last remnants of a wildfire being extinguished in a woodland, where the floor is brown and many trees have been burned.
A wildfire in a woodland that was caused by a disposable barbecue

Understanding what a wildfire is

A wildfire is an uncontrolled fire across a large span of countryside. Wildfires can start in areas such as:

  • heathland or moorland
  • rail embankments
  • fields
  • woodlands.

In 2019 we attended 1,792 fires in the open countryside across Devon and Somerset.

Why wildfires are dangerous

Wildfires damage and affect eco-systems, wildlife and animals and occasionally destroy buildings and property. They can spread over vast areas. For this reason, wildfires are some of the biggest fires we attend.

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What to do if you see a wildfire

If you are outside:

  • stay calm
  • ensure you are in a safe location (away from vegetation and smoke)
  • if you are in your car, close all windows and vents
  • call 999 and inform us of your location – you can use the What3Words app.

If you are at home:

  • stay calm
  • put yourself in a place of safety - do not try to put out the fire yourself
  • keep doors and windows closed, but unlocked
  • call 999 and inform us of your location.

How you can prevent wildfires

  • Take your litter home.
  • Don't throw cigarette ends on the ground or out of car windows.
  • Glass in direct sunlight can cause fires - ensure there is none lying around.
  • Don’t have campfires or barbecues in the countryside. Only have them in safe designated areas.

How the Service stops and puts out wildfires

A small wildfire can be extinguished by firefighters using hand tools such as a fire beater.

Larger wildfires can take a heavy strain on our resources, are hard to reach and often take many hours (or even days) to put out completely. We use:

  • all-terrain vehicles (providing we can easily access hard to reach areas)
  • specialist equipment such as water pumps
  • bowsers
  • helicopters.

We often work with partners such as the police (for arson-related wildfires), national parks, local farmers and landowners, and local search and rescue services.

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Wildfires we’ve had in Devon and Somerset

We’ve had many significant wildfires over the years. All wildfires present different problems and challenges to the fire service - often due to the conditions and accessibility.

A recent wildfire in Kingswear, South Devon destroyed two and a half square kilometres of coastal woodland and took just under 70 hours and 1,254 personnel hours to put out. The fire took place on a clifftop and was started by a disposable barbecue.

This fire took 48 fire engines and 15 special appliances, including:

  • three water jets
  • a helicopter providing water from the air
  • a fog spike
  • a fogging unit
  • a light portable pump
  • various beaters
  • small tools.

Below are some photos from the Kingswear wildfire.