Co-op turns up heat on instant barbecue safety in a bid to help reduce wildfires

22 April 2021

• Retailer to launch ‘Put Me Out’ campaign including new on-pack safety labelling

• Move is welcomed by the National Fire Chiefs Council

Leading convenience retailer, Co-op, is set to launch a campaign aimed at promoting safer use of instant barbecues as its new range hits shelves this spring.

The ‘Put Me Out’ safety drive features hard-hitting on-pack messaging to remind customers of the need to extinguish and dispose of the devices properly, with instructions illustrating the fact that water should be used to safely put them out.

Messaging also reinforces rules around instant barbecues only being used in authorised outdoor environments and not in areas that have a public space protection order against them.

Co-op’s move follows concerns shared by the National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) over the number of instant barbecue related fires, both in outdoor spaces and in the home when used on balconies or too close to garden fences and trees. NFCC is not calling for a ban of instant barbecues as it could encourage people to use makeshift ones, which can be unpredictable but wants people to be able to enjoy barbecues and urges everyone to use them responsibly.

Of particular concern to fire prevention authorities are the number of outdoor fires sometimes caused by an instant device, which can lead to wildfires and large scale protracted incidents.

Fires at Froward Point in Devon, Wareham Forest in Dorset and Darwen Moor in Lancashire, which took hold last year, are just a small number of examples of fires which were caused by instant barbecues. Causing devastation to natural habitats, all needed vast fire service resources to get them under control.

Whilst the majority of consumers conscientiously extinguish their instant barbecues, some devices are often left to go out by themselves but the coals still remain hot, which is why the use of water is so vital. Co-op’s new packaging provides clear, six-step safety instructions on the barbecue’s base.

The campaign will be supported with additional point-of-sale material in Co-op stores, along with safety advice on in-store radio, till screens and across digital channels and social media.

Adele Balmforth, Co-op buying director, said: “We’re anticipating high demand for our barbecues from the spring, particularly now as campsites are open and people are able to mingle outdoors. Whilst the majority of consumers enjoy instant barbecues safely as a cost-effective way to enjoy outdoor dining during the warmer months, we know that one fire caused by such a barbecue is one too many.

“As a responsible retailer, we are passionate about protecting the UK’s acres of natural wood and moorland and also want to take steps to prevent misuse on balconies and in the home. Our new on-pack messaging follows a year’s worth of consumer insight to understand the type of labelling which will gain cut through with the general public and we’re pleased to be working alongside our fire prevention partners to help educate customers on how to use and enjoy them safely.”

Paul Hedley, National Fire Chiefs Council lead for wildfires, said: “We support Co-op’s move – adding clear warnings along with simple messaging on how to dispose of these barbecues is an effective way to prevent fires. Most people manage to enjoy instant barbecues with no issues but the worrying upward trend in wildfires caused by these devices, cannot be ignored and action has to be taken.”

Paul Duggan, area manager and head of prevention, Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service, said: “The memories of the moorland fires in 2018 remain fresh in the mind of everyone involved, from our firefighters who worked incredibly hard to put the fires out, to the residents who were forced from their homes.

“Moorland and wildfires can be started in a number of ways. Sadly, many fires in the countryside are started deliberately, however, some can break out by people being careless with barbecues, campfires or not disposing of cigarettes properly.

“Our message is strong and clear - never have a barbecue or campfire on the moors or start a fire deliberately. Many people think it’s just the flame from a barbecue that sets the moorland on fire, but it’s actually the heat from the instant barbecue that often sets peat and dry moorland alight.

“In 2019 Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue worked closely with colleagues in Oldham and Tameside councils, which resulted in Public Space Protection Orders now being in place in parts of the two boroughs. This means that anyone found lighting a fire, barbecue, or other objects like fireworks and sky lanterns, will be given a fixed penalty notice of or face prosecution.

“It is really important that residents are vigilant when enjoying barbecues as when left unattended they can soon become a problem. I would also urge residents with a balcony not to use barbecues, fire pits, chimineas, or any other form of open fire under any circumstance. Any kind of open flame on a balcony is extremely dangerous to yourself and others in your building. If you have a wooden balcony the risk is even greater.”

In addition to the new front-of-pack tactics, additional safety messaging will be added to the barbecues’ cardboard collar and lighting paper. Last summer, Co-op has rolled out additional point-of-sale last asking consumers to be ‘BBQ safe’, by checking they have permission to barbecue if in a public space and to take the device home after use. The 2021 barbecue range is on sale now across all of Co-op’s 2,600 stores.

All charcoal used in Co-op instant barbecues is Fair Trade, as certified by Traidcraft.

Tips on staying safe when enjoying instant barbecues in the great outdoors:

• Never take a barbecue on the moors or to the countryside - it poses a huge risk of fire, is a risk to the environment and ties up firefighters who may be needed for other serious incidents

• Always extinguish your cigarette and any other smoking materials properly. Never throw your cigarette butt out of your car window - it could ruin whole fields of crops

• Don't leave bottles or glass in woodlands. Sunlight shining through the glass can start large fires. Take them home or put them in the waste or recycling bin

• Never start a fire of any kind - it may seem a good idea at the time, but a fire in the open can easily get out of control

• Keep children away from matches and cigarettes and open fires

• If you see a fire in the countryside, report it immediately. Don't attempt to tackle fires that can't be put out with a bucket of water. Leave the area as soon as possible and dial 999.

ENDS

For further information contact Co-op press office: Aimi.mcneill@coop.couk Victoria.simons@coop.co.uk Rebecca.baisden@halpern.co.uk NFCC press office: Monica.perez@nationalfirechiefs.org.uk Jane.eason@nationalfirechiefs.org.uk GMFRS press office: Kellie.Gillaspy@greatermanchester-ca.gov.uk