Barbecue or camp fire likely cause of Wareham Forest fire

Dorset and Wiltshire Fire and Rescue says it believes that the fire at Wareham Forest that started last Monday 18th May 2020 was caused accidentally by people having a barbecue or campfire.

The fire has caused devastation to 190 hectares of forest, killing wildlife and involving hundreds of firefighters, working round the clock from across Dorset and Wiltshire, including from Swanage.

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Wareham Fire
DW Fire and Rescue

A spokesperson for Dorset and Wiltshire Fire and Rescue said:

“Following a fire investigation, which has been ongoing since Monday, we now believe the cause of this fire to be accidental, due to social activity in the forest. While we cannot pinpoint the exact cause, we have found evidence of multiple disposable barbecues, campfires and glass bottles.

“Due to the current weather and weekend forecast, we have received an AMBER alert for wildfire. This means that, should we experience another wildfire, it could spread quickly and easily due to the dry and windy conditions. As we have seen here, wildfires take a great deal of resources and time to bring under control. Please stay fire-aware when out and about and please stay vigilant.

“In light of all of this, PLEASE do not have campfires or use disposable barbecues in our forests and heathlands. As we have seen, the effect can be devastating.”

Bottle at Wareham fire
DW Fire and Rescue

“It will take years, if not decades, for this habitat to recover.”

The area is still smouldering and satellite imagery has now revealed that the extent of the fire, at its peak, covered 190 hectares. Forestry England is currently working with other key agencies to assess the damage to the habitat.

Simon Smith, Head of Sustainable Land Management for Forestry England’s local team said:

“Thank you to all the fire crews, local partners and our forestry teams for their incredible work. This is a long, tough job in hot and smoky conditions.”

“Everyone’s hard work means we can now assess the damage to wildlife and the trees to begin planning the forest’s recovery. Sadly, I know from experience that it will take years, if not decades, for this habitat to recover. Hopefully, the impacts aren’t as bad as they look at first.”

He added:

“Forestry England’s local team still have a lot to do. We will carry on dampening down the area to make sure the fire doesn’t re-light and the clean-up operation could take weeks.”

For more information

Dorset and Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service advice on staying safe and enjoying the outdoors while avoiding starting a wildfire.

Heath fires and countryside safety

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