THE New Forest National Park Authority is pleading with retailers to stop selling disposable barbecues and for a continued ban on fires and barbecues in the open countryside.

The move comes as rangers revealed they were forced to extinguish 60 fires and barbecues in the New Forest in just one weekend.

National Park Authority Chairman Oliver Crosthwaite-Eyre said: “The National Park is one of the best places for wildlife in the UK and is extremely fragile.

“In nearby Dorset we have seen over 220 hectares of rare heathland and forest at Wareham Forest devastated by fire, likely to have been caused by disposable barbecues, and the same could happen here. It has been really upsetting to see the photos of dead lizards, slow worms burnt alive and all the trees and heathland destroyed. There is also a huge concern here that New Forest ponies and cattle could be put at risk.”

Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service Station Manager Andy Weeks said: “We urge the public to follow the guidance and refrain from using barbecues and having camp fires in forests, parks or any public area due to the risk of wildfires at this time.

“It’s vital for everybody to stay alert and report any incidents as soon as possible. If you see a fire, get to a place of safety and call 999 immediately so we can put it out before it does any significant damage.

Retailers who are backing the ban are asked to show their support on social media by tagging #BBQFreeNewForest.