Great outdoors

Spending time in the great outdoors can be a great experience. But make sure you’re doing your bit to keep these areas safe and clean. Here’s some top tips to help reduce the risk of fire and other dangers and make sure our parks, woodlands and other beauty spots are available for everyone.

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Camping and caravans

Check out the tabs below for our tips on staying safe and enjoying yourself in the great outdoors! Camping, cooking and caravan safety – the choice is yours!

  • allow at least six metres (18ft) between tents
  • never use candles in or near a tent, always a torch
  • discourage smoking, especially in smaller tents
  • don‘t use cooking equipment in smaller tents
  • make sure everyone knows where the nearest phone is and, if applicable,  the nearest emergency fire point
  • be sure the cooker is stable, out of draughts and somewhere it won’t get knocked over
  • keep flammables (including long grass) away from the cooking area
  • avoid using liquid fuel appliances if possible
  • only change disposable gas cylinders when they’re completely empty
  • never leave a cooker, barbecue, fire, etc burning and unattended, including when you go to sleep.

Caravans are smaller and more confined than houses, with greater fire risks. It’s essential that you install a smoke alarm and a carbon monoxide alarm, and follow these precautions:

  • on a caravan site, find out what the fire-fighting arrangements are
  • never leave children alone in a caravan
  • a fully-charged water or dry powder fire extinguisher should be kept in the caravan near an exit door, and a fire blanket should be next to the cooking area
  • keep a torch handy for emergencies and never use candles
  • make sure everyone knows how to use escape windows and doors
  • keep gas cylinders outside the caravan, unless a specially-ventilated compartment is provided.
  • make sure the gas tap’s turned off before changing the cylinder
  • change cylinders outdoors or in a well-ventilated area
  • if you suspect a leak to the cylinder or pipe work, brush soapy water around the joints and watch for bubbles. Tighten to fix, but don’t over-tighten
  • after cooking, turn off the gas cylinder before turning off at the controls to ensure any gas left in the pipe is used up
  • never take a smouldering or lit BBQ (charcoal or gas) into a tent, caravan or cabin. Even if you’ve finished cooking, your BBQ will still give off fumes for some hours after use
  • If using gas cartridges, ensure you use the correct ones for your model of stove
  • never puncture gas cylinders or put them on to an open fire.

Carbon Monoxide

Carbon Monoxide is a highly poisonous gas, created when fuels such as natural gas, wood and charcoal fail to combust fully, due to a lack of oxygen. You can’t see it, taste it or smell it, but it can kill quickly with no warning. For further information see our carbon monoxide page.

Parks and Woodlands

Parks and woodlands around the West Midlands and elsewhere are a great place to unwind and spend time with family, friends or just walk the dog! Small fires can easily start in parks or woods though and there are some steps you can take to make sure we all keep our outdoor spaces safe, clean and reduce any risk of fire.

Nobody likes litter in our open spaces, but what you may not realise is that certain types of littering can increase the risk of fire. Here are some quick tips

  • items that can reflect sunlight, such as bottles (particularly glass) should be taken with you
  • ensure cigarettes are completely extinguished in proper cigarette bins or if safe disposal isn’t possible, take your cigarette ends with you and dispose of them safely
  • remember littering is against the law and could land you a fine. Littering does include dropping cigarette butts and chewing gum.

Often, open fires, bonfire and BBQ’s are not permitted in open spaces. However, where they are permitted, follow this advice to stay safe:

  • check with landowners or the local council if you are permitted to have fires or barbecues on their land
  • keep open fires, including campfires, away from bushes, hedges and trees
  • make sure fires are enclosed and cannot spread
  • only use barbecues in a suitable and safe area and never leave them unattended
  • if using disposable barbecues, ensure they are fully extinguished after use and dispose of them safely

Sometimes, even if you follow safety advice, accidents can happen. Here’s what you need to do if it does.

  • before setting fires or lighting barbecues, make sure you know where you are and could easily describe your exact location to an emergency operator. Using your phones’ GPS or an app such as What3Words could help
  • if a fire gets out of control or starts to spread, dial 999 immediately
  • unless a fire can be put out safely with a bucket of water, don’t attempt to extinguish it yourself, always call the fire service
  • for more on what to do in an emergency, visit our ‘in an emergency’ page.

Countryside fire safety

Fire destroys thousands of acres of countryside, open space and wildlife habitat every year. Sadly, many of these fires are started deliberately but, by following a few simple precautions, many others can be prevented:

  • dispose of smoking materials responsibly and make sure they’re completely out. Never throw them to the ground or out of vehicle windows
  • ideally, never have an open fire in the countryside
  • don’t leave camp fires or barbecues unattended, and extinguish them properly after use
  • clear away bottles, glasses and any broken glass to prevent them magnifying the sun’s rays and starting a fire
  • Flames aren’t games – explain to children the personal and environmental dangers of playing with fire
  • if fire breaks out, call 999 immediately. Be clear about your location, mention any landmarks – perhaps a church or pub – and, if phoning from a phone box, stay nearby so you can direct the fire engines to the scene
  • if you can do so safely, prepare for the arrival of firefighters at a pre-arranged meeting point by unlocking gates, etc
  • don’t attempt to fight the fire yourself unless it is very small and can be put out with a bucket of water – grass and crop fires can travel very quickly.
Logo for the Countryside code

The Countryside Code is designed to help us all to respect, protect and enjoy our countryside.

For more information on The Countryside Code, the government website has all the details.

Other useful links!

Garden Safety | Smoking | Camping and caravans

Sky lanterns

Sky lanterns are a beautiful sight – but the potential damage they can cause is significant.

They use the heat of a naked flame to float. They’re not only a fire hazard but also a danger to livestock, agriculture, camping activities, thatched properties and hazardous material sites.

Whilst ignition and launch are mostly in the control of the user, the actual flight path and end destination are not. There’s no guarantee the fuel cell will be completely out and cooled when the lantern lands, so any contact with a flammable surface could start a fire.

There’s evidence of them causing fires, wasting police time, being mistaken for distress flares, misleading aircraft and killing livestock.

We don’t support their use. We urge the public and event organisers not to use them.