Wildfire safety

We attended 120 wildfires across Lancashire in 2022 alone.

Wildfires are an increasing problem in Lancashire due to the continuing effects of climate change.

There are lots of ways you can support us and help keep our county safe. Thank you to everyone who already follows our advice.

Please read our wildfire-specific safety advice to greatly reduce your risks of accidentally starting a wildfire.

The involvement of the public is a vital factor in preventing the massive damage that wildfires can cause. Read on to find our latest tips on how to stay safe.

Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service – wildfire safety advice

Wildfires are a serious problem in Lancashire. We deal with more and more fires on moorland and grassland each year, with many sadly being caused by the actions of people.

However, there are many ways you can help to avoid wildfires starting. It is especially important to be very wary of wildfires when out camping, caravanning and using disposable barbecues.

Wildfires are becoming more common each year. Climate change is also a factor because it means some areas are drier and more likely to set alight.

But with your help, we can reduce the number and seriousness of wildfires in Lancashire. This will stop them causing costly damage and endangering lives.

Wildfires In Lancashire

We want people to stop using disposable barbecues in the countryside to reduce the amount of harm caused by wildfires.

Wildfires are easily started and can spread rapidly putting people, property and infrastructure at risk. The terrain makes them challenging to firefight and demands large amounts of our resources, as well as from the resources of our partners.

Lancashire knows only too well the devastating effects of wildfires following a fire on Winter Hill near Bolton in summer 2018 which destroyed 18 square kilometres of moorland. Despite this, we continue to experience avoidable fires in open spaces across the county, causing long-lasting harm to wildlife, habitats, and biodiversity.

The threat to the environment and our communities can be significantly reduced if people enjoy Lancashire’s great outdoors without using disposable barbecues.

How you can help

You can help look after Lancashire if you’re out enjoying the countryside, parks or beaches or even at home by following this advice:

  • Never use disposable barbecues on moorland or grassland. Please pack a picnic instead.

  • Avoid smoking on moorland. If you do, always extinguish your cigarettes and other smoking materials thoroughly.

  • Do not dispose of cigarette butts out of car windows.

  • Never leave bottles behind, as sunlight can become focused as it shines through glass, starting fires. Please take your litter home with you.

  • Keep children away from lighters and matches.

If you are a landowner or manage land, please only carry out controlled burns if absolutely necessary and within the legal timeframe each year. It is very easy for controlled burns to get out of control and cause unintended wildfires.

In the event of a wildfire

  • If you see a wildfire, call us on 999. Don’t assume someone else has.

  • Provide as much information as you can about the location, size, terrain and any other relevant information.

  • If you need to, move to a place of safety and don’t try to tackle the fire.

  • Stay away from the area and adhere to road, footpath and other closures. They may be dangerous and you could block access for emergency services.

  • If you are nearby and affected by the smoke, keep windows and doors closed.

How to protect your home

In Lancashire, losing your home to a wildfire is relatively unlikely. However, there are still lots of ways you can reduce your risks of your property being damaged due to a wildfire.

The following actions will help you to protect your home from the risk of wildfire:

  • Stop any hot embers from entering your roof space by repairing any loose or broken roof tiles.

  • Look for places where dead leaves collect naturally around your home – like gutters – and clear them out regularly.

  • Move any flammable materials away from your home, such as leaves, compost heaps and log piles.

  • Make sure that your home’s name or number is clearly visible from the road. This will help the emergency services, including our firefighters, to locate you should a fire occur.

  • Avoid parking on or next to any fire hydrants – these are clearly identifiable with a yellow ‘H’ plate.

  • Do not double park outside your home. This can hamper fire engines and other emergency vehicles from reaching you quickly.

How to protect your garden

Many of us have worked hard to make our gardens beautiful spaces. We understand you might want to protect your garden from the risk of wildfire.

Follow this advice to reduce the chances of losing your garden:

  • Trim back growth any that’s close to or touching your home, and dispose of cuttings responsibly.

  • Prune trees so that the lowest branches are six to ten feet above the ground.

  • Avoid throwing cuttings over your garden fence rather than disposing of them properly. This will just add to the fire risk near your property.

  • Separate trees, bushes and items that could catch fire, like patio furniture.

  • During hot, dry spells, ensure that your garden is maintained regularly and consider using ‘grey’ (waste) water for watering plants and lawns. That way, even if there are limits on the use of hosepipes etc, the ground can be kept damp.

  • Consider the position of any garden sheds and their proximity to the property.

  • Use a fire-retardant paint on fencing and wooden structures.

  • Use caution when having barbecues and bonfires, and if using fireworks.

Why we respond to wildfires

You may ask why wildfires are important, because they are not normally in areas where people live.

As well as being dangerous, wildfires can cause extensive damage to property and infrastructure. They also destroy key habitats for our British wildlife. Moreover, any firefighters who are forced to deal with a wildfire are unable to be deployed elsewhere until it is extinguished.

Wildfires and moorland fires are difficult to contain and can very quickly spread into other areas and cause damage to property and buildings.

Impacts on the environment

As well as the human impact, wildfires also release a huge amount of carbon into the atmosphere. This lowers air quality and also contributes to global warming and climate change.

Lancashire is already experiencing the effects of climate change, such as an increased number of flooding and wildfire events. We have identified these incident types as among the most high-risk and impactful on Lancashire’s residents today.

You can learn more about how we plan to face these challenges in our climate change operational response plan (opens in a new tab) or by watching this video.

Public Space Protection Order (PSPO)

A Public Space Protection Order (PSPO) for parts of Chorley, Darwen and Bolton came into force on 21 August 2023 to prevent devastation to wildlife and reduce the risks of wildfire on the moors.

The PSPO bans any activities on moorland that carry a significant risk of causing wildfires – such as lighting barbeques, building or lighting campfires or camping stoves, lighting fireworks, or setting off night-sky paper lanterns. Breaching the PSPO is a criminal offence and could result in a fine of up to £1,000.

If you'd like to learn more, please visit our PSPO web page.

Controlled burning

Controlled burning, also known as prescribed burning or moorland/heath burning, is the planned process of setting fire to an area of moorland to remove old heather and vegetation and minimise risk of wildfires. To find out more about and controlled burning, the burning period and where to find more information by visiting our Controlled Burning webpage.

Additional resources

For more information about wildfires and what you can do to help avoid causing one, you can click here to visit the official Moors of the Future website (opens in a new window).

By following this advice, you can enjoy visiting Lancashire’s beautiful moorland without risking causing a costly and potentially deadly wildfire.

You might also be interested in our camping and the outdoors safety advice page.