Summary and outcomes
This project aimed to develop strategic planning to build in resilience regarding fire management, taking into account the fact that some Wild Purbeck habitats such as heath and forest are increasingly susceptible to wild fire and extensive damage.
The wildfire working group drew together partners from diverse organisations, from Dorset Fire Service and the Fire and Rescue Service to the Forestry Commission. Work focused around: fire mapping; producing guidance and an action plan; and training. Wildfire fire maps were produced in year 1 and adopted by Dorset Fire and Rescue Service.
In year 2, a feasibility study was carried out on ignition sources and related conditions for wildfires. This included the following:
- Gathering evidence of historical accidental / unwanted ignitions
- Determining the climatic conditions and fuels that would support accidental ignitions
- Investigating the relationship between wildfire ignitions, fuel type and human activity within Wild Purbeck District Council Researching the potential changes to accidental ignition success as a result of predicted climate change
During year 2, the fire management plan was completed and training of 16 people took place. In the final year, links were made between the fire management plan group and the climate change project.
Highlights and challenges
The main highlight of the project was the formation of a new partnership. This brought colleagues together from a variety of organisations and backgrounds and gave them a common focus and purpose. They realised that they had a shared problem that could best be resolved by cooperation and joint action.
Delivering structured wildfire training to the partnership was also very beneficial as the majority had never received any form of training. This all came to a successful conclusion during ‘Exercise Erica’ - a fire service led multi-agency response to a simulated wildfire.
The key challenge for the future will be finding a way to maintain the momentum. The Urban Heaths Partnership and the AONB team may be able to harness the existing enthusiasm and provide a sustainable future for the project, but lack of funding and ever changing staff are a genuine threat to future work.
Further funding would enable recommendations highlighted in the Wild Purbeck NIA Fire Guidance and Action Plan to be delivered including a research project investigating wildlife ignitability and initial spread. Data gathered would aim to predict the potential fire behaviour that could be expected, including ease of igniting vegetation and rapidity of spread for different habitats. This could be used as a tool to avoid accidental wildfires or mitigate their dangers, for example through use of vegetation mosaics and access routes