FIREFIGHTERS have issued a stark yet clear plea after a series of wildfires scorched the landscapes of a number of open areas this week.
It comes after yesterday marked the third consecutive day of crews battling recurring blazes at the Ministry of Defence site Browndown, close to the Alver Valley in Gosport.
Since Tuesday, the area of First World War significance has been battered by gorse shrubbery and heath fires, which have relentlessly blackened more than two hectares of land.
Shockingly, at least one of the blazes – commonly thought to be down to the heatwave across the nation – looks to have been started ‘deliberately’ by mindless youngsters.
Tony Read is the crew manager of the Omega Watch at Gosport Fire Station and has battled the incidents alongside his colleagues on Tuesday and Thursday.
He said: ‘We actually found a lighter at one part of the site, so we have a reason to believe some of these problems are because of kids letting off fires while out on their bikes.
‘Sadly, having been in the job for 18 years this kind of thing doesn’t shock me anymore.
‘But all we can ask is that parents are very mindful of what their children are getting up to.
‘Kids set these fires off, clear off out of one of the exits and have no idea of the danger they're potentially leaving behind.’
Unlike the jobs they have to attend at high rises and multi-storey properties, stairs have not been the primary obstacle for crews at Browndown.
Firefighters from Gosport, Fareham, Portchester, Havant, Cosham and Eastleigh have had to navigate narrow First World War trenches overgrown with brambles and thick foliage.
And to add insult to injury, the gorse shrubbery which has been catching fire produces its own oils – which naturally work against the reaction from crews – and can travel underground via roots and emerge in another area of the site entirely.
In a precautionary statement on its website, Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service has urged people only to dispose of extinguished cigarettes and clear up used bottles and broken glass which could magnify flames.
Anyone who sees people illegally starting fires should call the emergency services on 999 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.