Disposable barbecues should have cigarette packet-style warnings, fire official says

Disposable barbecues should come with cigarette packet-style safety warnings, a union leader in Yorkshire has warned, following increasing reports of wildfires.

The devices have been found at the scenes of dozens of recent wildfires across the region in recent weeks, including one at a West Yorkshire reservoir which destroyed a birds nest.

It follows recent warm, dry spells of weather which have led to thousands of people visiting beauty spots as lockdown restrictions are gently eased, with the arid conditions also leaving grass and moorland vulnerable to fires.

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The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has now said that more people needed to be aware of the dangers of lighting the barbecues in public places, and that companies should label packaging of the barbecues with cigarette packet-style safety warnings.

Fire services battle a grass fire in West Yorkshire this week, at which the remnants of a disposable barbecue were found. Picture: WYFRS

David Williams, the FBU’s regional secretary for Yorkshire and the Humber, said: “We would call for something being placed on the packages on these barbecues, similar to cigarette packets.

“There should be responsible packaging on these things. We just need people to realise the damages that can be done. All it takes is a small gust of wind to relight it after someone has put it out and gone home.”

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Dave Walton, Deputy Chief Fire Officer at West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service, said that although the service were not seeking a ban on sales of disposable barbecues altogether, it was urging people only to use them at home and would not rule out calls for a full ban in future.

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The service have attended multiple wildfires recently, including at Buckstones on Marsden Moor and Digley Reservoir near Holmfirth, the second of which led to the discovery of a bird's nest with unhatched eggs. Remnants of a barbecue were found at both sites.

Figures from WYFRS showed there had been eight large-scale fires on moorland and heathland caused by barbecues since January 2019. This was not including smaller incidents.

Among them was a fire at Marsden Moor in April last year that destroyed nearly three square miles of peatland.

In the week leading up to last weekend, fire services in North Yorkshire were called to five incidents where a disposable barbecue was found.

West Yorkshire Fire said a birds nest was found among the ashes of a fire at Digeley reservoir started by a disposable barbecue last weekend. Picture: WYFRS

A large open fire at Dove Stone Reservoir on Saddleworth Moor, between West Yorkshire and Oldham, was attended by 10 fire engines from across the region on Wednesday, although the cause of this has not yet been made clear.

Mr Walton said the rise of wildfires caused by disposable barbecues was "a worrying trend", and did not rule out the possibility of calling for a full ban on them in the future.

He said: “We are not currently seeking a ban on disposable barbecues because we know that this would deprive the vast majority of people who use BBQs sensibly and for whom this may be the only way that they can enjoy cooking outdoors. However we suggest the only safe place to do so is in your own back garden and away from anything which might catch alight.

“There is a worrying trend where, according to evidence, disposable barbecues are being identified as the cause of many wildfires. That being the case we will actively monitor this trend and consider our position in respect of calling for a ban.

A fire fighter battling a previous moor fire in West Yorkshire. Picture: WYFRS

“We need people to care about the environment, and to care about the consequences of using disposable barbecues in any open, public space – especially given current weather and ground conditions and the elevated risk of fire."

Some local authorities in Yorkshire and further afield have made it illegal to barbecue on council-owned land.

Kirklees, Calderdale and Oldham councils have all previously approved Public Space Protection Orders (PSPOs) which means anyone found barbecuing on moorland or public land can be prosecuted.

Mr Walton added: “There are Public Space Protection Orders in place in many open spaces, and as such using a barbecue or lighting a camp fire is an offence.

“We are carrying out drive by patrols in areas we consider to be high risk of wildfires and we have an ongoing campaign called Be Moor Aware which urges people to be responsible.”

The remnants of a disposable barbecue were found following a fire at Digley reservoir in West Yorkshire last weekend. Picture: WYFRS

The Yorkshire Post revealed in April that 135 wildfires burned out of control during the first six months of last year, according to data analysed by the Moorland Association.

The economic fallout from blazes on Saddleworth Moor and Winter Hill is estimated to have been £21.1m.