Despite the weather cooling down there is still a high risk of ‘devastating’ wildfires wreaking havoc across the county’s natural areas, a wildlife charity has warned.

The Berkshire, Buckinghamshire & Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust (BBOWT), which manages more than 80 nature reserves covering 2,670 hectares, has issued a warning to the public after numerous fire incidents occured across the three counties in recent weeks.

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Earlier in the month, firefighters from Oxfordshire closed part of the A420 during a major field fire, while last week fire crews in Berkshire raced to tackle a blaze in an open area at Sulham Woods near Reading.

Crews from all three counties had to race to a blaze in Milton Keynes last Tuesday (July 19) which saw 39 buildings evacuated.

The recent hot weather, including record-breaking temperatures in Oxford and the wider country, have combined with low rainfall to leave heathland, moorlands and grasslands extremely dry and liable to catch fire from the tiniest hot ember or spark.

The charity now is urging people not start fires in any wild places, including its own reserves and to 'pack a picnic not a barbecue'.

BBOWT is asking all visitors to the countryside to:

  • Pack a picnic, not a barbecue
  • Only light barbecues or campfires in authorised locations where there are fire extinguishers available
  • Extinguish cigarettes or matches and never throw them onto the ground
  • Take litter home: bottles can magnify the sun’s rays and cans can reflect the light, both causing hotspots which can start fires
  • If you spot smoke, or flames, make sure you’re safe and dial 999 immediately

Steve Proud, land management director at BBOWT, said: "We are in a climate and nature emergency.

"Our landscapes are under more pressure than ever before as temperatures rise and changing weather patterns mean they are more susceptible to wildfires.

"A barbecue or stray cigarette may set light to a much-loved beauty spot leading to destruction that takes decades to repair.

“Too often a care-free day out can turn into tragedy when wildlife and precious habitat are devastated by wildfires caused by careless behaviour.

"We want everyone to enjoy our wonderful wild places – please join us in taking care of them and acting responsibly.”

The charity adds that the soaring temperatures are a reminder extreme weather events such as heatwaves are expected to increase because of climate change.

Fires pose a huge risk to human health and safety but in wild areas such as nature reserves they threaten rare species and habitats which could be damaged forever.


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This story was written by Sophie Perry. She joined the team in 2021 as a digital reporter.

You can get in touch with her by emailing:

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