Fire breaks out on Studland peninsula near beach

A large area of vegetation among the Studland sand dunes in Dorset has been devastated by a fire that swept through the habitat of many rare species including the endangered sand lizard and smooth snake.

Fire crews from nine stations including Swanage were sent to tackle the blaze, with the first callout at 10.55 am on Wednesday 12th July 2023.

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Firefighters tackling a fire in Studland
Wareham Fire Station

The area of sand dunes was difficult to access for vehicles

“Fire was difficult to extinguish”

The fire, fanned by blustery winds, spread across an area of around 150 metres by 100 metres near to Shell Bay, close to the Sandbanks Ferry. The land is owned by the National Trust.

Swanage Fire Station reported:

“We were sent to Ferry Road in Studland with reports of smoke in the area. On arrival we were faced with a large fire some distance away from the road. An assistance message was sent back asking for four Land Rovers, one Unimog and a water carrier.

“The fire was difficult to extinguish due to lack of water nearby, poor access to the fire and a strong wind. A bit later two more off road appliances were requested to help with damping down.”

Shortly after the arrival of Swanage, they were joined by crews from Poole, Wareham, Bere Regis, Hamworthy, and Wimborne.

Studland Heath fire
Swanage Fire Station

Rare wildlife will have been unable to escape the flames

Firefighters tackling a fire in Studland
Wareham Fire Station

Firefighters from across Purbeck, Poole and the Bournemouth area tackled the blaze

“The cause is unknown at this time”

By 4.30 pm the fire had been put out and the Swanage Fire appliances, along with others, were able to return to their stations to be replaced by relief crews from Ferndown, Redhill Park and Verwood who continued to damp down the burnt ground.

Wareham Fire Station reported:

“The fire is now under control, and firefighters will stay at the scene for the rest of the day dealing with hot spots. An area of around 150 metres by 100 metres has been affected. The cause is unknown at this time and resources are likely to be scaled back later.”

Studland heath fire viewed from Knoll Beach
Amelia Coffen

The smoke could be seen from Knoll Beach, further round Studland Bay

Studland Heath fire
Swanage Fire Station

Flames were visible from a distance

Second large fire in Studland within 11 months

The affected area is within the Studland and Godlingston Heath national nature reserve which is listed as a site of special scientific interest (SSSI) and is home to all six species of native British reptiles.

This is the second large fire to break out in the area within 11 months. In August 2022 a huge heath fire, which was believed to have been started by a campfire or disposable barbecue, destroyed vegatation and wildlife over an even larger area, not that far away from the scene of the latest fire.

Fire appliances at Studland for heath fire

The water carrier was called in to fill up the tanks of the fire appliances in Shell Bay car park

Fire appliance on Sandbanks Ferry

Fire appliances from the Poole and Bournemouth area travelled across on the Sandbanks Ferry, whose service was unaffected by the fire

Railway embankment fire

To add to the pressure on the Dorset and Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service, while crews were tackling the blaze at Studland, a call came in at 12.48 pm to say that a section of Swanage Railway embankment was on fire at Valley Road in Harman’s Cross.

With all local crews deployed at Studland, a crew from Westbourne attended and found an area of approximately 30 metres by 10 metres that had been burnt but had now been extinguished. The crew was able to damp down the area to ensure it didn’t reignite.

Studland Heath damage from 2022 fire

The site in Studland of the fire in August 2022 was badly damaged by the blaze

Studland Heath damage from 2022 fire

The area following the fire in August 2022 remains a burnt wasteland

Wareham Fire Station open day

Wareham Fire Station, which was involved in tackling the Studland fire, is holding an open day between 10 am and 4 pm on Sunday 16th July 2023 and any money raised will be donated to the Fire Fighters Charity.

There will be a wide range of activities to suit the whole family, including real fire demonstrations, a display of fire appliances old and new, plus other emergency service vehicles to view.

Station manager Steve Nicol from Wareham Fire Station, said:

“This is a great way for our local community to find out more about its local fire station.

“We would like as many people as possible to come along to our open day, have a great time and leave with some vital fire and road safety messages. There will also be an opportunity to talk with the crews about becoming an on-call firefighter.”

Wareham Fire Station family fun day poster

More photos

Fire appliances at Studland for heath fire
Firefighters tackling a fire in Studland
Wareham Fire Station
Fire engines on Ferry Road
Amelia Coffen
Studland Heath fire
Swanage Fire Station
Studland Heath fire
Swanage Fire Station

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