The highest risk period for forest fires occurs between February and June, when ground vegetation is dead and dry following winter. For this reason the danger can be extremely high even when it has rained recently. There are a number of steps, which could be taken to minimise the risk of forest fires and I take this opportunity to remind the general public of those steps".
1. DO NOT LIGHT FIRES IN OR NEAR WOODLAND. Take care with other potential sources of ignition.
2. CHECK FIRE BREAKS. It is the owners' responsibility to ensure that Fire Breaks surrounding plantations are inspected annually prior to the fire season and maintained in an effective, vegetation free condition. Ideally Fire Breaks should be at least 6 metres wide.
3. INSURE YOUR CROP. All forest crops should be insured against losses by fire, which is one of the risks for which cover is available commercially. Forest owners are reminded that, with effect from 1st June 2009, the Reconstitution Scheme does not cover any fire or wind damage occurring after that date.
4. OFFENCE. It is a legal offence to cut, grub, burn or otherwise destroy any vegetation growing on any land not then cultivated between 1st March and 31st August in any year.
5. PLAN AHEAD. Fire Plans should be developed for all plantations, including a map showing access and assembly points for fire fighting personnel and equipment and potential sources of water. The plan should also include contact details for the emergency services, relevant forest management organisations, neighbouring landowners and forest owners in order to summon help should the need arise. Have fire-fighting tools such as beaters and knapsack sprayers to hand and ready to use.
6. BE VIGILANT. Forest Owners should be particularly vigilant following prolonged dry spells. A period of 24 hours is sufficient to dry out dead moorland vegetation following rain, where windy conditions exist. Where dry conditions persist, experience suggests that forest owners should be particularly vigilant at weekends, and at evening times, when land burning is most likely to take place. If fire is detected, do not delay, summon help immediately and activate fire plan. Do not rely on others to call the Fire Service, and remember that a rapid response by the emergency services is essential if damage to property is to be minimised.
7. DISCUSS WITH NEIGHBOURS. Cooperation between neighbouring landowners is vital to successful fire prevention. Explain your concerns regarding fire risk to neighbouring landowners. Owners of adjoining and neighbouring plantations should develop joint fire plans and share responsibility for guarding against fire.