Stay safe in the countryside this summer urges community leader

With the school holidays begun and parents taking advantage of the sustained dry spell to enjoy Staffordshire’s beautiful countryside, the need to take care is greater than ever.

Gill Heath, Staffordshire County Council’s cabinet member for Communities, said: “We live amid the most beautiful countryside which we should enjoy, but at the moment we have to take care – a moment’s carelessness could start a terrible fire, while cooling off by swimming in open water can be terribly dangerous.”

Following weeks of hot weather and little rain, road verges, grass and undergrowth are extremely dry across the county.

Visitors to the countryside are being urged not to light barbecues or camp fires during the hot spell, discard glass carefully because it can magnify sunlight and not to throw finished cigarettes out of car windows.

Coun Heath urged: “If people are having a day out at one of our country parks, or elsewhere in the countryside, we would ask them to take a picnic with them rather than lighting up a barbecue, because the risk of sparking a fire is so high at the moment.”

The authority is applying the ‘no barbecue’ request at all its countryside parks and estates, including Cannock Chase, Chasewater, Apedale, Hanchurch Hills, Consall Nature Park and Deep Hayes, near Cheddleton.

Coun Heath (pictured) added: “As well as being responsible themselves, I hope people can keep an eye open wherever they are – the end of one discarded cigarette can be enough to start a major blaze in these conditions.”

Another recognised danger at this time of year is swimming in open water such as lakes, reservoirs and quarries, as inland water temperatures can still be as low as 2°C despite the warm air.

That can cause ‘cold water shock’ which can lead to sudden loss of consciousness, while prolonged periods in cold water can also cause hypothermia.

Gill Heath said: “Swimming in open water is completely different to swimming in a safe, controlled swimming pool and can be very dangerous, not least because there may also be unseen hazards hidden below the surface.

“We want people to have a safe and enjoyable time this summer sun and would certainly encourage people to swim in one of the many public pools across Staffordshire.”

Fire safety advice includes:

  • no barbecues – even in usually designated areas;
  • no camp fires;
  • do not drop used cigarettes or other smoking materials;
  • clear away bottles, glasses and broken glass to avoid magnifying the sun;
  • do not throw cigarettes from car windows;
  • if you see a fire dial 999 immediately;
  • if off the beaten track find a landmark such as a church, farm, or pub to use as a reference.