Co-op Group launches safe barbecue campaign to prevent wildfires

The campaign includes messaging in store and on packs for its instant barbecues

The Co-op Group is running a campaign to promote the safer use of instant barbecues as its new range hits shelves this spring.

The ‘Put Me Out’ safety drive features 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.

The Group’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. 

The issue was highlighted last year when the New Forest National Park Authority call on shops in the area to stop selling the items following a spate of fires. The Southern Co-op and other retailers complied but the Group kept the items on the shelves, instead opting to display prominent safety information and signage in its packaging and in store.

The NFCC is not calling for a ban of instant barbecues as it could encourage people to use makeshift ones, which can be unpredictable, but is urging responsible use. Last year they caused a number of fires – including Froward Point in Devon, Wareham Forest in Dorset and Darwen Moor in Lancashire, devastating habitat and needing huge fire service resources to control.

Most consumers extinguish their instant barbecues, but some leave them to go out – with the hot coals presenting a fire risk. Safety campaigner say it’s vital to use water and the Group’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 the Group’s stores, along with safety advice on in-store radio, till screens and across digital channels and social media.

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.

“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.

“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.”

In addition to the new front-of-pack tactics, safety messaging will be added to the barbecues’ cardboard collar and lighting paper. Last summer, the Group 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 Fairtrade, as certified by Traidcraft.

Tips on staying safe when enjoying instant barbecues:

  • 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.