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Firefighters issue safety warnings following spate of incidents linked to warm weather

Surrey firefighters have issued fire and water safety warnings following a spate of incidents linked to the warm weather.

Fires can start and spread more quickly on dry sunny days so Surrey Fire and Rescue Service is urging people to take extra care with barbecues and cigarettes and avoid having bonfires.

And while it may be tempting to cool off with a swim in a lake or river, the service is also highlighting the risks of swimming in open water, which can be much colder than expected and harbour hidden dangers below the surface.

Since the beginning of May, the service has been called to more than 40 wildfires in the Surrey countryside including at Whitmoor Common which needed the presence of the fire service for four days. Some of the blazes are believed to have been started by discarded cigarettes or barbecues left unattended.

Firefighters have also been called to 15 house fires in just the past eight weeks which were caused by bonfires or barbecues getting out of control or being started too close to sheds, fences or garden buildings.

Bonfires don’t need to come into contact with anything else to start other fires – sometimes the heat from the fire is enough to ignite nearby fences, trees or walls, particularly if they’re bone dry.

There have also been recent incidents around the country of people drowning in open water, including in Nutfield, near Redhill. Since 2013, 21 people have drowned in open water in Surrey.

Bryn Strudwick, Community Safety Manager for Surrey Fire and Rescue Service, said: “Fires are more likely to start and spread quickly when the weather’s warm and sunny – whether it’s a bonfire igniting dry undergrowth, a camp fire left unattended, sunlight reflected off a household mirror or even sunglasses left on a car seat.

“The sun dries everything up so a smouldering match thrown into a bin or a disposable barbecue left to burn out is more likely to spark a full-blown fire. It’s essential to make sure matches, cigarettes, barbecues and fires are completely put out and you can take other steps too, such as keeping mirrors and glass out of direct sunlight. We’d advise against having bonfires at this time.

“A moment of carelessness could lead to damage to your home, business or the countryside and put lives at risk so please take extra care. As always, a well-maintained, working smoke alarm will give an early warning of a fire – including any breaking out in cars or sheds near your home.

“With swimming in open water, it can be colder than you expect with stronger currents and you don’t know what’s lurking under the surface. It’s important that people know the dangers and how to stay safe in and around the water.”

Denise Turner-Stewart, Surrey County Council’s Cabinet Member for Community Services, said: “We want people to enjoy the opportunities the warm summer weather brings but when it comes to fire and water safety we’d encourage residents and businesses alike to keep in mind what our firefighters are saying and heed their advice.”

Click here for advice on water safety. Advice on fire safety outdoors, including barbecues, is here with tips on preventing wildfires here.

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