In what Swanage Fire Station called “quite a day”, around 90 firefighters from across Dorset brought a huge fire under control on Studland Heath in Dorset.
In blazing heat, fire crews tackled the “very intense” fire that resulted in the closure of Ferry Road and the suspension of the usual Sandbanks Ferry service as it prioritised bringing emergency services over from Poole.
The fire was right by Ferry Road – the main road from Studland village to the Sandbanks Ferry terminal
Second of three callouts
The incident that happened on Friday 12th August 2022 was the second of three callouts that day for Swanage Fire Station.
Filing just before midnight on Friday 12th August 2022, Swanage Fire Station posted:
“At 12 noon today we were sent to a fire on the hill at Church Knowle along with several other appliances.
“The fire was brought under control and while damping down, we were made aware of the fire developing at Studland. As we were an off-road appliance, ourselves and Poole were sent direct to Studland to tackle the fire.
“The fire was very intense and multiple pumps attended. All crews worked extremely hard in very hot conditions to bring the fire under control.
“Our Land Rover attended a bit later in the afternoon and the original crew was replaced by a fresh Swanage crew at 7.30 pm.
Black smoke spread across the area and even as far as Holton Heath, making some fear that there was another fire
“Out of control bonfire”
However that wasn’t the end of the shift for the Swanage firefighters, as a third call came in about an out of control bonfire.
Swanage Fire Station reported:
“Just as the Swanage crew was leaving the station they were mobilised to an out of control bonfire. We requested the attendance of another pump and finally made it home just after 10.30 pm.
“Crews will be on scene at Studland all night and quite possible tomorrow damping down.
“Quite a day!”
Water was piped from Little Sea on the Studland peninsula and used to fight the fire
Long walk home
Studland resident, Mike Cheesman was one of the last to be allowed to travel home along Ferry Road after getting off the Sandbanks Ferry. On the ferry he was joined by a fire engine, so realised something serious was happening. He said:
“While I was able to get home, my son and his partner, who were in a car behind us, weren’t so lucky. They made it off the ferry at the Studland side but weren’t allowed to continue to drive along Ferry Road.
“They were returned via the ferry to Sandbanks and directed around the harbour. As they passed Wareham, they were then diverted to Church Knowle where another fire was being put out.
“Their route to Studland via the Corfe road was closed so they had to go via Swanage where they discovered they couldn’t return to Studland. They ended their journey by parking in Swanage and walking home via Ballard Down!”
The roads are now open on however crews are still monitoring the heath for hotspot flare ups, so people are being asked to avoid the area if they can. The Sandbanks Ferry is now operating as usual but there is no parking along Ferry Road.
Local coastguard teams worked with the fire service to refill water tanks from Poole Harbour
Red fire severity alert
The multiple fires across the Purbeck countryside come the day after Dorset and Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service issued a red fire severity alert following a dramatic increase in the number of fires during the current hot weather.
The fire service is asking people to not have open fires or use barbecues in the countryside. It points out that disposable barbecues and campfires are banned in many parts of Dorset.
All cigarettes should be extinguished properly and not thrown on the ground or out of car windows.
No route through from the Sandbanks Ferry to Studland village
Ferry Road was closed from the Knoll Beach car park, meaning that beachgoers heading back to Poole had to travel the road route home rather than use the ferry
Site of Special Scientific Interest
Studland Heath, owned and managed by the National Trust, is not only a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) but also part of Purbeck Heaths, an area designated as a National Nature Reserve.
It was created to help preserve the heathland and the rare wildlife that the habitat supports.
Watch films of Studland fire
Wareham Fire Station
Verwood Fire Station
The first callout for Swanage Fire Station was to a farmer’s field at Ridgeway Hill in Church Knowle near Corfe Castle
Swanage and Wareham crews wer called to Church Knowle around 12 noon
As soon as the crews had got the fire at Church Knowle under control, they were redeployed to Studland