South Yorkshire’s firefighters are calling on people across the county to use ‘common sense’ when lighting garden fires during the on-going COVID-19 pandemic.
The plea from South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue comes as they, and other fire services nationally, have seen an increase in garden fire call-outs over the last two weeks.
These incidents, they say, could potentially slow their response to a more serious incident and hamper their ability to help their communities in other ways during these difficult times.
“First and foremost, we don’t want to take away from the most important message right now – stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives,” said Group Manager Matt Gillatt, deputy head of the joint police and fire community safety team.
“What we do want to do, though, is keep our firefighters free not only for real, life-threatening emergencies, and for the extra work that they are starting to take on during this pandemic.
“We appreciate people are generating more rubbish by staying at home, and that disposal options are more limited right now, which is why some people are lighting garden fires.
“Ideally people wouldn’t do this at all, given that they can so easily get out of control, put people at risk and tie up our firefighters.
“But if people must have a fire in their garden, please do not leave them unattended, keep them away from sheds, trees and fences and have a bucket of water nearby.
“Please also consider your neighbours. Smoke can be a real nuisance and this is especially the case if you’re trying to enjoy some fresh air, or it’s blowing into your home.”
The service is also calling on people to be vigilant around deliberate fire-setting – with a particular plea going out to parents with teenage children.
“As well as an increase in garden fires we’ve seen a rise in deliberate fires, too. That is basically people setting fire to cars, rubbish, bins and other stuff.
“Whilst we sympathise with the people whose home’s we’ve attended to extinguish a garden fire, we really have no tolerance for those setting fire to things on purpose.
“At quite a lot of these deliberate incidents we’ve seen groups of young people running away upon our arrival so, if you’ve got kids that are still going out, please talk to them about the consequences of actions like this.”
Last week it was announced that a tri-party agreement had been struck for firefighters across the country to take on additional duties during the COVID-19 outbreak.
This will see crews across South Yorkshire potentially driving ambulances, delivering care packages to the most vulnerable and transporting bodies.
The extra efforts coincide with South Yorkshire’s new safety campaign, #KeepFireSafe, which has been launched in light of the pandemic.
More information on this campaign, how people can stay safe and get involved, can be found at www.syfire.gov.uk.