Richmond Park photo by Anne Ross
The long hot, dry spell has turned the Park's grassland the wonderful brown savannah-type colour that usually doesn't happen until August. But it also brings a very high risk of fire from portable BBQs.
The Royal Parks have issued this Press Release on 3rd July 2018. On the same day there was an item on the subject on BBC News
Accidental fires caused by using BBQs during the heatwave could have disastrous consequences for wildlife, destroying veteran trees, annihilating wild-flower seed banks and harming or even killing birds and mammals, warns The Royal Parks. Several fires are accidentally started in the Royal Parks every year by embers and ash falling from disposable BBQs.
ACCIDENTAL FIRES FROM BBQS IN PARKS COULD WIPE OUT CENTURIES OF BIODIVERSITY
DRY GRASS IS LIKE TINDER IN HEATWAVE
Accidental fires caused by using BBQs during the heatwave could have disastrous consequences for wildlife, destroying veteran trees, annihilating wild-flower seed banks and harming or even killing birds and mammals, warns The Royal Parks.
Several fires are accidentally started in the Royal Parks every year by embers and ash falling from disposable BBQs.
The fires can have devastating effect, destroying historic parkland that hosts a rich diversity of wildlife, killing plants and trees, and wiping out valuable wild-flower meadowland.
Fires are often started when people have positioned their BBQs under the shade of large trees, which could be hundreds of years old. Many have become hollow over time and when a fire starts they act as a chimney, causing the fire to spread through the tree rapidly, destroying the tree and killing animals.
At Richmond Park, an important habitat for wildlife and a National Nature Reserve, trees of up to 700-years-old have gone up in flames following accidental fires caused by BBQs.
Adam Curtis, Park Manager for Richmond Park, said: “In some areas of the park we’ve seen centuries of biodiversity wiped out because of a fire caused by a BBQ.
“We’ve lost veteran trees and even if the tree survives the fire will burn out the decaying wood within. This important habitat supports over 1,000 different species of insects and their larvae which can be destroyed. Birds will fly off but sadly baby birds will die, as will roosting bats.”
“Grassland fires spread quickly and set off a chain reaction. In fallen deadwoods I’ve found burnt grass snake eggs and stag beetle larvae. Invertebrates in the grass also get burnt – mammals will run off but their nests get burnt.
“The grass dies as does any seed bank. Often what grows back is a different composition of species and if more aggressive rye grasses get in, then we tend to find the grass loses some of its wildlife value.
“Worryingly we do get BBQs put into bins when still alight and I’ve had to put out bin fires. On one occasion a car was parked next to the bin and I have no doubt it would have caught fire if I hadn’t got there in time.”
Dennis Clarke, Head of Park Services for The Royal Parks, added: “We understand the temptation to use beautiful green spaces for barbeques, but hot coals and dry grass don’t mix. During the hot weather the hot grass in the parks is like tinder.
“No-one ever believes it’ll be their barbeque that causes a fire, but fires can start easily and rapidly get out of control especially in thewilder, more secluded parks.
“Fires quickly become very dangerous, and are a risk to visitors and wildlife. We ask everyone to respect the ban on barbeques, to keep visitors safe and protect wildlife.”
For media enquiries contact The Royal Parks press office on 0300 061 2128 or [email protected]