Dorset and Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service says the fire that destroyed around 20 hectares of heathland in Studland in Dorset was started accidentally.
The dramatic blaze on Godlingston Heath near to the Isle of Purbeck Golf Club course took hold on the evening of Tuesday 30th November 2021.
Fire crews from across Dorset including Swanage and Wareham battled to put out the fire as it spread, driven by strong winds.
Alerted by members of the public, fire crews rushed to put out the rapidly spreading fire
Brought under control
It was brought under control a few hours later, although crews had to return over the following two days to dampen down hotspots that were at risk of reigniting.
Now Dorset and Wiltshire Fire and Rescue says the investigation into the cause of the blaze has confirmed that the fire was accidental and spread from a bonfire.
Earlier in the week, gorse bushes, which can be invasive if left to grow, were being cleared from the area near to the golf course.
The extent of the damage to Godlingston Heath
Home to many endangered species
Godlingston Heath is owned by the National Trust and part of the Purbeck Heaths national nature reserve.
It’s a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and home to many endangered species.
All six species of native British reptile are found on the heathland, including the rare sand lizard and smooth snake.
Firefighters returned over the following two days to dampen down hotspots
“Hopeful that hibernating reptiles and insects survived“
A spokesperson from Purbeck National Trust said:
“Even though the fire looked very dramatic, the good news is that the damage is probably less than we first feared.
“Strong winds followed by rain made for a fire that moved fast but did not burn deep into the ground, which was then quickly doused. Because of that we are hopeful that hibernating reptiles and insects survived. The time of year means there was no threat to ground-nesting birds either.
“Our rangers will continue to monitor the situation. This was a serious fire but even though it affected around 20 hectares that is less than one per cent of the Purbeck Heaths national nature reserve – a good example of how landscape scale conservation makes nature more resilient.”
“We would like to thank Dorset and Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service for its prompt action and hard work and we really appreciate the messages of support we have received from the community.”
Although the fire had been extinguished, the heath can still smoulder below the soil and has to be doused to stop it reigniting