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Operation to protect Dorset's precious heathland

Dorset Police has joined forces with partner agencies to reduce anti-social behaviour, theft and fire damage to our precious heathland.

Operation Heathland will see a combination of proactive policing and public education to protect the county’s heathland areas, which are threatened each year by fire and other damage caused by accident, recklessness and arson.

The Force is working alongside the Urban Heaths Partnership to remind members of the public to be alert and proactive in reporting any suspicious behaviour or fires on the heathland. 

This year marks the 15th successive Operation Heathland, which runs between 31 March 2014 and 28 September 2014. Last year’s initiative saw the number of heath fires fall from 163 in 2011 to 111 in 2013.

The total amount of heathland damaged by fire was significantly reduced from 71.1 hectares in 2011 to 12.8 hectares in 2013.

Residents and visitors to the heath are asked to follow some simple steps:

  • If you are on a heath when a fire occurs please leave by the nearest exit and call 999 with as much information as possible.
  • You can also help by reporting any anti-social behaviour on the heaths either to the wardens or to the police on 101.
  • Please remember it is not safe to light barbecues or camp fires on any heathland site.
  • Do not ride motorbikes on the heath – it causes irreparable damage to the land and wildlife.

Police Sergeant Adrian Thompson said: “Anyone caught starting a fire on a heath will be prosecuted. Fires on heathlands not only cause irreparable damage to endangered plants and animals but also put people living nearby in danger.

“Operation Heathland will see high visibility police patrols across the heathland areas in Poole, Bournemouth, East Dorset and the Purbecks to reduce instances of malicious fires, damage from fire, damage from vehicles, theft of items from the heath and wildlife offences.”

Dorset Police and the Urban Heaths Partnership are looking for members of the community to help protect Dorset’s heathland by signing up to a Heath Watch in their area.

Paul Attwell, Urban Heaths Partnership team manager, said: “We would like to hear from anyone who regularly visit the heaths and would be willing to give up a small amount of their time to help us protect it. To find out more please call 01202 642787, emailurbanheaths@dorsetcc.gov.uk or visit the Community Heath Watch – Dorset Facebook page.”

Gaynor Mant, community safety education officer at Dorset Fire and Rescue Service, said: “I cannot stress enough how important it is to take extra care when enjoying our heaths and open areas. If you are a smoker, extinguish them fully before disposing of them. Never ever just throw them lit. The result could be 50 or 100 firefighters tackling the subsequent blaze.”

Anyone with information about suspicious activity or fires on the heath should call 999 in an emergency or Dorset Police’s non-urgent number 101.

Issued: 17 April 2014