A CAMPAIGN has been launched urging shops to ban sales of disposable barbecues in Dorset in a bid to reduce the risks of devastating wildfires.

Litter Free Dorset has launched its campaign - #ChooseToRemoveDisposableBBQs – to support Dorset Council’s efforts to reduce fire risks as the county prepares for its busiest summer ever, as thousands of visitors flock to the coast amid the easing of Covid restrictions.

The authority plans to ban disposable barbecues and campfires at high fire risk areas across Dorset and will be working with other councils, organisations and landowners to communicate the message to visitors and residents.

Measures are being put in place as figures showed there are an average of 400 fires on heathlands and in forests every year in Dorset.

In May last year, more than 150 firefighters were involved in tackling a devastated blaze at Wareham Forest, which is believed to have been sparked by a discarded disposable barbecue. The blaze destroyed around 220 hectares of heathland.

Litter Free Dorset said more than 1 million disposable barbecues were sold in the UK last year – but warned that they are often disposed of inappropriately, sometimes without being put out, increasing risks of outdoor grass and heathland fires which they said can have ‘devastating environmental impacts’.

The group is now in talks with a number of businesses and community groups, independent shop owners and supermarket chains to ensure the success of its latest campaign.

READ MORE: Work to restore 'one of the most devastating fires in Dorset' begins

Sophie Colley from Litter Free Dorset said “A huge Thank you goes to the businesses that have already taken it upon themselves to stop selling disposable BBQs altogether. If you are still selling disposable BBQs please reconsider removing them and displaying safety messaging next to any other BBQ related items.”

A number of shops have already agreed to the moves, including the Costcutter & The Food Shop convenience store in Swanage, which said it would not be stocking disposable barbecues as it did not want to be responsible for any potential fires.

Downloadable posters are available to go on display at businesses choosing not to see disposable barbecues this year, while posters and flyers containing safety advice are also available for those with barbecue-related items on sale, such as charcoal.

Litter Free Dorset said members of the public who spot shops selling disposable barbecues can tap into resources on its website, www.litterfreedorset.co.uk, including a letter to businesses, a Wareham Forest Fire infographic and poster.