30 May 2024

Residents advised to stay indoors as Salisbury Plain fires send smoke across Wiltshire

Residents in the affected areas of Wiltshire are being asked to stay indoors and keep doors and windows closed due to smoke from fires on Salisbury Plain.

According to Wiltshire Council, smoke is being seen in a number of local areas including Salisbury and the surrounding areas, as well as Devizes and parts of Swindon.

A number of local agencies, including Wiltshire Council, Wiltshire Police, Dorset and Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service, UK Health Security Agency and Swindon Borough Council have met to discuss the fire and ensure local residents, schools and care homes have the information they need.

Although it could be challenging due to the current warmer weather, residents are being advised to do their best to avoid smoke and fumes where they can by closing windows, but where possible to make the most of any opportunities to increase ventilation when wind and other conditions allow.

People should stay hydrated as much as possible. Simple measures like closing curtains on rooms that face the sun can keep the temperature lower, which will be particularly advisable for those who don’t want to open their windows due to the smoke.

People in the affected areas are also asked to look in on any vulnerable neighbours and family to check they have everything they need.

Updates will also be sent to relevant local schools and care homes with the latest advice.

The Defence Infrastructure Organisation, part of the MOD, which is managing the fire said, “No properties are at risk and we are closely monitoring the situation.”

Dr Michael Allum, Acting Public Health Consultant in Health Protection at Wiltshire Council, said, “We know the smoke will be concerning for those in the areas affected, particularly as the ongoing warm weather can make it uncomfortable when windows are shut.

“Simple measures and precautions like keeping hydrated, and closing the curtains on sun-drenched rooms is advisable to keep people comfortable, and if people feel their local area has some respite from the smoke they can open the windows to let some air in.

“If people feel they need any specific health advice related to this, they should call 111.”

Advice from the UK Health Security Agency for those directly affected by smoke:

Smoke can irritate air passages, skin and eyes, resulting in coughing and wheezing, breathlessness and chest pain so individuals with pre-existing cardiovascular and respiratory conditions, such as asthma, should carry any necessary medication or inhalers with them at all times and seek medical advice if their symptoms worsen, by contacting their GP or NHS 111

“We are currently at heat health alert level 3 and it is important that you protect yourself from the smoke, whilst also keeping cool. We recommend that residents:

  • avoid areas affected by smoke from this large-scale wildfire
  • stay indoors, keep your doors and windows closed, tune in to local radio station for advice and information if there is visible smoke from your property
  • draw curtains to limit direct sunlight heating-up internal surfaces
  • use fans to recirculate air within the house to help keep cool
  • take a break from the heat by moving to a cooler part of the house (especially for sleeping)
  • wear lighter clothing
  • keep hydrated with cool drinks
  • check that central heating, lights and electrical equipment not in use are turned off
  • set any air conditioning (preferably fitted with a HEPA filter) to recirculate mode
  • open windows that are on the opposite side to the plume/smoke (when it is safe to do so), and when the air feels cooler outside than inside to get air flowing through the home, for example, at night
  • once the smoke has moved away, consider opening doors and windows to allow properties to cool down, being mindful of changing conditions and be aware that the smoke could return
  • If driving in smoky areas keep your windows wound up, air vents closed and switch off air conditioning systems to prevent drawing in outside air
  • Whilst causing short-term poor air quality, exposure to smoke from large-scale wildfires is unlikely to contribute to any long-term health effects. Any long-term risk to health from poor air quality will be based upon lifetime exposure, rather than the short-term acute exposure from this large-scale wildfire
Written by
Beth Doherty
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Written by Beth Doherty