A WILDFIRE alert has been issued for the New Forest.

The amber alert was put out by Forestry England and Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service, and follows a series of fires that broke out over the recent Easter holiday period.

Emergency servies attended eight fires across the area that weekend, including one that damaged over 1,500 square meters of valuable wildlife habitat.

Rangers on patrol over the period spoke with many people about how and where to use barbecues safely and provided assistance to put out those that were unsafe and likely to get out of control.

Community manager, for Forestry England’s team in the New Forest, Zoe Cox, said: “Fires can start in the forest for a number of reasons. People are often shocked by the scale of the risks even small barbecues or fires can pose. Placed directly on the ground they can burn and damage the forest floor, and in dry areas heat can travel down through the earth undetected and pop up some distance away or travel up into a tree through its roots to start a fire. To help us protect the Forest from risks like these we are asking visitors to help us by following our barbecue code.”

The code in question gives clear guidelines about how and where to use a barbecue in the forest and how to prevent fire risks.

According to the land management group disposable barbecues are only permitted at Bolderwood and Blackwater where there are special stands and water available.

For large groups barbecue hearths are available to hire at Anderwood and Wilverley.

Non-disposable barbecues can be used in car parks, as long as they are raised off the ground on a stand, and only used on the car park surface.

They warn that anyone using a barbecue must bring enough water with them to fully extinguish it after use, and takes it away with them when they leave.

It is not permitted to make campfires or burn of any wood from the forest.