LANDOWNERS have issued an urgent plea to the public after flames engulfed a large area of Hampshire heathland.

People visiting the countryside are being urged to take extra care following weeks of scorching weather which has created tinder dry conditions across the county.

A blaze destroyed six acres of land off Badminston Lane, Fawley, on Tuesday evening and other incidents have occurred at nearby Dibden Inclosure.

The danger of more fires is worrying members of the Country Land Business Association (CLA), which represents landowners, farmers and rural businesses.

A CLA spokesman said: “Wildfires have the capability to devastate farmland, wildlife and also pose a risk to the lives of people living and working in rural and adjacent communities.

“Wildfires can be prevented by not discarding cigarettes or other smouldering material. The same can be said for litter as quite often bottles and shards of glass can spark a fire.

“Some CLA members have highlighted the increased fire risk associated with disposable barbecues that are used in the countryside, urging the visiting public not to barbecue in rural areas.

“Barbecues should only take place in sheltered areas well away from combustible material, and properly extinguished afterwards.”