THE CO-OP is launching a campaign aimed at promoting safer use of instant barbecues in a bid to prevent fires.

This comes after the devastation caused at Wareham Forest last year, which is believed to be a result of an instant barbecue.

Last May, hundreds of firefighters worked around the clock to tackle a blaze which destroyed around 200 hectares of heath and woodland in Wareham.

The fire started on May 18 and crews were on the scene for 13 successive days before it was extinguished.

Fires at Froward Point in Devon and Darwen Moor in Lancashire were also caused by instant barbecues.

The move by Co-op follows concerns shared by the National Fire Chiefs Council 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.

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Co-op buying director, Adele Balmforth 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."

National Fire Chiefs Council lead for wildfires, Paul Hedley said: "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."

Special messages will be printed reminding Co-op customers of the need to extinguish and dispose of the devices properly, with instructions showing that water should be used to safely put them out.