Two men have been arrested on suspicion of arson after a disposable barbecue sparked a woodland fire in Norfolk.
The suspects, both aged 44, were arrested after firefighters extinguished a blaze in Bawsey Country Park, near King’s Lynn, on Sunday morning.
Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service sent two engines to the scene and said it took crews 20 minutes to put out the small fire – measuring about four meters squared – that police said was caused by a disposable BBQ having been “thrown” in the woodland.
The two men, from Boston in Lincolnshire, were initially detained by an off-duty police officer before they were arrested on suspicion of arson and criminal damage.
Superintendent Nathan Clark, of Norfolk Police, thanked members of the public who tried to put the fire out before the firefighters arrived.
He said: “As we’ve seen recently, the impact of extreme heat and fires can be devastating.
“Both men will be questioned, and we’ve spoken to witnesses to establish the circumstances surrounding this incident.”
Firefighters across England have been tackling blazes during one of the hottest weekends of the year so far during a period of prolonged hot and dry weather that resulted in eight areas of England declaring droughts.
A number of these fires have been caused by disposable barbecues.
All the major supermarkets in the UK – Aldi, Co-op, Lidl, Morrisons, M&S, Sainsbury’s, Tesco, and Waitrose – have stopped selling disposable barbecues during the recent period of unusually dry weather, which has led drought to be declared across a swathe of England.
Tony White, head of prevention at Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service, said disposable barbecues should only be used in non-flammable places as dry grassland and woodland can catch fire that easily spreads.
“Fires that are started deliberately can destroy property and take lives,” said Mr. White.
“We all need to stay vigilant and keep safe in this heat, by never discarding cigarette ends carelessly, leaving bottles or glass behind in the open and by not using barbecues in fields, open grassland, parks and forests, and only ever igniting a barbecue when it’s safely on solid, non-flammable surfaces such as the patio.”
In the current hot dry conditions, the Met Office’s fire severity index (FSI), an assessment of how severe a fire could become if one were to start, has been very high for most of England and Wales.
It was expected to reach the highest level – “exceptional” – by the weekend, when the Norfolk woodland fire broke out, among others.
Last month, the London Fire Brigade joined calls for a total ban on disposable barbecues.
Meanwhile, a petition on the UK government website urging ministers to impose a national ban on disposable barbecues has so far gathered almost 25,000 signatures.