Disposable barbecues must be banned in England, says fire chief

27 08 2022 | 06:08Helena Horton

London’s fire commissioner has joined calls for a total national ban on disposable barbecues after they were blamed for starting wildfires in England during the recent spate of dry weather.

The barbecues are a fire risk, especially when used on dry ground, and areas of England have seen the driest weather experienced for 111 years.

Homes were lost to fires in east London earlier this month during a heatwave where temperatures hit 40.3C.

In Norfolk, nature reserves lost over 100 acres (40 hectares) of habitat for rare ground-nesting birds and other animals after fires raged.

Disposable barbecues were cited as the cause of several of the fires, including a serious blaze in Lickey Hills park near Birmingham. National Trust properties including Morden Hall Park, south London, were hit by large areas of scorched earth after fires from disposable barbecues, and the cliffs of Torbay in Devon were set ablaze.

The London fire brigade commissioner, Andy Roe, on Friday asked all local authorities in the capital to implement bans.

He said: “Despite our grass fire warnings, we have still seen some people behaving carelessly and recklessly. On Saturday, firefighters prevented a serious blaze at Wanstead Flats [east London] caused using a disposable barbecue.

“We need urgent action now to see a national ban on the sale of disposable barbecues. They can be bought for as little as £5 and can cause untold damage, especially when the grass is as dry as it has been over the last few weeks.

“Last week is another example of how we are increasingly being challenged by new extremes of weather as our climate changes, and we are developing long-term strategies to deal with more incidents like this in the future.”

Jake Fiennes, conservation manager at Holkham nature reserve in Norfolk, has called for a sales ban after finding used disposable barbecues on fragile sand dune habitat.

He said: “At what point does it make complete sense to remove the sale of disposable barbecues. Three found today and undoubtably many more undiscovered to date.

“The government keep telling us they don’t want to tell us what to do. Yet they banned smoking inside for our health, they banned using a mobile phone while driving for our safety. Why can’t they ban disposable barbecues to protect the environment!”

Rebecca Pow, who was an environment minister until she resigned in protest over Boris Johnson’s behaviour, said she would be sympathetic to a ban.

She said: “The recent devastating wildfires have demonstrated what a risk portable barbecues can pose if not used responsibly. With more extreme weather events predicted, I support all efforts to address the dangers portable barbecues can present … while not restricting people’s opportunities to get out into our green space with all the benefits that brings.”

The Labour party is also calling for a complete ban on their sale. Holly Lynch, the shadow security minister, said: “Given the damage disposable barbecues are having, the calls for a ban are getting louder and louder.

“The government must take this seriously and take action on disposable barbecues now.”

Retailers, including Waitrose and Aldi, have announced they will no longer stock disposable barbecues because of the detrimental impact they have on the environment and wildlife. A petition on the UK government website has so far received more than 5,000 signatures.

Helena Horton

Disposable barbecues must be banned in England, says fire chief