A Conservative MP has called for ‘very large’ fines to be handed out to anyone who starts a wildfire with a disposable barbecue.
Jeremy Lefroy, who represents Stafford, told Farmers Guardian the local fire service was ‘fed up’ with seeing time and money spent on containing damage done by ‘idiots’.
His call comes just a few weeks after the National Trust issued a plea for the public to follow the Countryside Code when a fire started by a barbecue tore through Marsden Moor, destroying blanket bog and vital habitats for ground nesting birds.
The area Mr Lefroy represents is close to Staffordshire Moorlands, where three large blazes burned large areas of countryside in Alton, Thorncliffe and The Roaches last summer.
“When there were the moorland fires last year, Staffordshire Fire Service had ten or twelve tenders [specialised vehicles used to tackle fires] up 24-7 for several days,” Mr Lefroy said.
“This means my constituents in Stafford are not being protected because some imbecile has set fire to the moorland, and that is not acceptable.
“If the few people who use these disposable barbecues irresponsibly are hit very hard in the pocket to try to recover some of the costs of the damage they have caused, that may send a message out.”
Mr Lefroy also suggested all large areas of moorland open to the public should have designated barbecue sites, with barbecuing banned everywhere else, and called on manufacturers and retailers to do more to alert customers to the threat wildfire poses to the countryside.
He said: “We really need to make clear we are not trying to ban people from having barbecues, but we should have them in places set aside for them, which there are already in some places, even in Forestry Commission areas.
“Then on the actual barbecues in shops, we need some kind of warning about the threat to moorland and the countryside generally if these barbecues are used in the open.
“They should tell people the use of barbecues in places where it is prohibited will incur very large fines or possible criminal prosecution.”
In April this year, two students whose barbecue started a huge forest fire in the Como region of Italy were fined €13.5m (£11.7m) each.