Published: 21:21, 03 August 2018
Amid a flurry of field fires, a senior firefighter has issued an urgent appeal to help protect Kent's countryside from catching alight in the hot weather.
Families should be careful with barbecues and take extra precautions with garden fires as the county battles "tinder dry conditions", according to Paul Flaherty, assistant director of Channel Tunnel and resilience at Kent Fire and Rescue.
It comes as crews have battled a series of field fires in Kent in the last few days.
A corn blaze in Upstreet, near Canterbury, today destroyed an area equivalent to 10 football pitches.
Hours later, 100 acres of cut straw were seen smouldering in Eastchurch, Sheppey.
Mr Flaherty said: “There is a real danger in these very dry conditions of fires having a devastating impact on people’s lives, homes and livelihoods.
"I want to appeal to the people of Kent and Medway and our visitors to be extra vigilant to prevent outdoor fires on what is now tinder dry land, caused by the second coming of this summer’s heatwave."
Firefighters from across the county have been called to a number of fires in the open countryside over the last 36 hours.
At 2.36pm on Thursday, four fire crews were sent to a large field fire in Hartley near Dartford.
Meanwhile, four crews were sent to a grassland fire in Swanley today and within an hour and a half, four more fire engines were sent to tackle a fire involving large areas of farmland at nearby Crockenhill.
Mr Flaherty said: "Whilst there’s a real need to be vigilant, there’s also a need to be sensible and responsible too.
"We need people to take real care over barbecues - they should be managed carefully, with coals and ash disposed of once things have really cooled down.
“Not only that, but to those who smoke, please make sure you fully extinguish smoking materials.
"Evidence suggests that too many of our attendances to large grassland and crop fires result from the careless discarding of smoking materials.
“In these dry conditions, we ask you to make sure that garden fires are kept well attended and not built too big that they become unmanageable.
"It’s also important to be aware of your surroundings; shrubs and trees are also very dry.
"Garden bonfires can quickly spread. Having a garden hose or even buckets of water on hand can prevent the unintended spread of this kind of fire which hasn’t been helped by the high winds we have also been experiencing.
“I’d also like to appeal to people walking in the glorious Kent countryside, please make the most of it, but remember to be responsible with sources of ignition and other materials that can reflect heat that can be the source of ignition for a grass fire.
"We are fully supportive of the Kent County Council and Highways Agency initiatives that urge people to take their rubbish and waste material home with them rather than discard it carelessly from moving vehicles or in the countryside.
"Please dispose of it responsibly. Whilst most of these fires are started accidentally, it is the case that some are started deliberately.
"Please help us to protect our countryside by being vigilant and reporting those that you believe to be acting irresponsibly. We will work with our colleagues in other agencies to ensure the necessary action is taken to prevent this kind of behaviour.
“Kent Fire and Rescue Service is well prepared and will be there where and when we’re needed, but my appeal is to keep the demand down for fires that can easily be avoided with a little more care and attention.”