Warning against burning refuse after rise in fires involving sheds and fences

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The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service is reminding the public not to light bonfires to dispose of items such as garden or household waste.

This warning comes after fire and rescue crews were mobilised to tackle a number of incidents across Scotland in which outdoor fires have spread to property and nearby households.

During April, SFRS crews were called to 17 fires involving external structures – such as sheds, patios, items of garden furniture, and built-up areas of combustible materials.

This is more than double than during the same time period in the last two years (8 in April 2019 and 7 in April 2018).

Assistant Chief Officer Stuart Stevens, SFRS Director of Service Delivery, said: “With bin uplift services in many areas still limited during the Coronavirus pandemic, people might be tempted to burn refuse or other materials.

“We cannot stress this enough – lighting bonfires can be dangerous, and we would strongly discourage anyone from attempting to dispose of waste, or other items, in this way. 

“This can often be very unsafe in terms of the risk of fire spread – to your own home and possessions, as well as that of neighbours.”

Burning refuse near to areas of grassland and countryside also brings the risk of wildfire.

Earlier this month, it took around 50 firefighters more than three days to extinguish a wildfire in Wester Ross, which is believed to have started from high winds blowing hot ash from a fire pit into an area of dry vegetation.

“Once lit, fire can be unpredictable and you are no longer fully in control of the potential consequences,” ACO Stevens added.

“The smoke can also cause a significant inconvenience to neighbours and nearby properties; can pollute the environment; and impact those with respiratory conditions."

Other notable examples of fires affecting external structures during April 2020 included:

  • April 1, Pumpherston - bonfire spread to outdoor refuse bins
  • April 12, Kirkintilloch - burning of refuse, fire spread to fence and decking
  • April 14, Clydebank - bonfire spread to garden shed
  • April 17, Airdrie - chiminea fire spread to garden shed
  • April 18, Whitburn - bonfire spread to refuse bin and garden fence
  • April 20, Lochgilphead - bonfire spread to garden furniture
  • April 20, Bellshill - burning of refuse, fire spread to neighbouring shed and garage
  • April 20, Penicuik - burning of refuse and garden waste, spread to roof of property and business premises
  • April 25, Coatbridge - burning of refuse, spread to garage
  • April 25, Erskine - fire spread to shed, and then to roof space of detached house
  • April 26, Uddingston - fire pit spread to excess refuse, then to shed and roof of property

ACO Stevens added: “What can initially seem like a small, controlled burn can very quickly spread to sheds, fences or even property, and lead to a number of our firefighters and resources being mobilised.

“While we continue to maintain a high resilience across Scotland, we would seek to avoid any unnecessary demand on our service during this unprecedented time.”


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