FIREFIGHTERS are warning residents to be aware of the devastating consequences of fires in open spaces following a surge in incidents across Cheshire.

In the past week, crews have been called out across the county to a multitude of incidents including a garden waste fire which spread to a number of fence panels in Widnes, despite warnings being issued on social media.

Since March there have been 17 incidents across Cheshire involving buildings, vehicles and outdoor structures where the main cause was listed as a bonfire out of control or intentional burning out of control.

Across the county there have been a total of five house fires caused by out of control bonfires and burning. A significant number of these incidents involved disposable barbecues, garden waste and discarded cigarettes.

With the weather continuing to look warm, sunny and bright throughout the weekend, firefighters are reminding communities to be wary of the dangers of fires across the county.

Service Delivery Manager for Cheshire East Matt Barlow said: “Any fire can get out of hand and it is important that the people of Cheshire are aware of not only the dangers but the consequences of fires in gardens or a public green space.

“Over recent weeks we have seen a sharp rise in the number of outdoor fires, which have spread to fences, garages and even vehicles.

“These fires not only cause hundreds and in some cases thousands of pounds worth of damage but also could have resulted in severe injuries. A lot of the fires could have been avoided."

Urging people to exercise caution while enjoying the sunshine, he added: “I am asking residents to be aware of how they are discarding garden waste and using items such as BBQs and cigarettes in open places.

“This weekend will see another bout of good weather and I would urge everyone in Cheshire to please follow safety guidance, be aware of the consequences and stay safe.”

If any fire starts accidentally, please do not attempt to put the fire out yourself. Get out, stay out and call 999.

Key outdoor fire safety advice:

• If using a disposable BBQ always follow the safety instructions provided, never leave it unattended and make sure that your BBQ is well away from sheds, fences, trees or garden waste. After cooking ensure that the BBQ is cool before moving it and empty ashes onto bare garden soil NOT into bins. Top tip: Always keep a bucket of water, sand or garden hose nearby for emergencies.

• When using public spaces please make sure that you put out cigarettes and other smoking materials properly, never throw cigarette ends out of car windows. Don't leave bottles or glass in woodlands as sunlight shining through the glass can start a fire. If you see a fire, report it immediately and do not attempt to tackle fires that can't be put out with a bucket of water, leave the area as soon as possible.

• If lighting a bonfire, keep it well away from any structures, fences, cables and trees. Never use flammable liquids to light the fire and never burn foam-filled furniture, aerosols, tins of paint and bottles. Ensure that the bonfire is supervised at all times and that everyone is kept away from the fire, especially children. Always keep buckets of water or a garden hose at the ready in case of an emergency. Once the bonfire has finished, pour water on the embers before leaving.

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