Wareham Forest sees more “precious heathland” destroyed in fire

Firefighters, including a crew from Swanage, were called to tackle a major blaze in the heart of Wareham Forest, that may have been started deliberately.

Just before 3 pm on Monday 6th September 2021, smoke and flames were spotted in the Decoy Heath area. On arrival Wareham Fire crew discovered just under a hectare of woodland alight.

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With the blaze threatening to spread, they were quickly joined by crews from Swanage, Poole, Wimborne and Christchurch. Firefighters used seven hose reel jets, a main jet and beaters to bring the fire under control.

Fire in Wareham Forest being extinguished by firefighters
Wareham Fire Station
Fire in Wareham Forest being extinguished by firefighters
Wareham Fire Station

Crews stayed overnight to continue dampening down

By the evening, the fire had been extinguished but crews stayed overnight to continue dampening down the burnt areas and to deal with any hotspots.

On the following day, Tuesday 7th September 2021, Dorset and Wiltshire Fire and Rescue issued an Amber alert warning that if a wildfire started it could spread quickly and easily, due to the warm weather and tinder dry conditions.

Fire in Wareham Forest being extinguished by firefighters
Swanage Fire Station
Fire in Wareham Forest being extinguished by firefighters
Wareham Fire Station

“The ground and foliage are dry

Dorset and Wiltshire Fire and Rescue group manager Darren Langdown said:

“While the warmer weather is welcome after such a gloomy August, it does mean the ground and foliage are dry, and this can result in a greater risk of fires spreading if something happens to cause ignition.

“We would urge anyone going out and about in our beautiful countryside this week to take extra care and follow our advice to bring a picnic not a barbecue, and to avoid having campfires on heathland or in woodlands.”

Fire in Wareham Forest being extinguished by firefighters
Swanage Fire Station
Fire in Wareham Forest being extinguished by firefighters
Swanage Fire Station

Dampening down hot spots

With the fire in Wareham Forest extinguished, Dorset and Wiltshire Fire and Rescue handed over responsibility for dampening down hot spots to the landowner, Forestry England.

Forestry England’s Dorset team said that the fire had “destroyed 7,000 square metres of precious heathland and damaged mature trees” and thanked Dorset and Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service for their swift action in dealing with the fire.

Fire in Wareham Forest being extinguished by firefighters
Swanage Fire Station

“Do not have open camp fires or barbecues”

A Forestry England spokesperson added:

“We want everyone to be able to enjoy the outdoors, however, the current dry conditions have increased the risk of fires in the forest and wider countryside, so we are reminding everyone to take extra care when visiting forests.

“It’s important that people do not have open camp fires or barbecues and extinguish cigarettes properly.”

Dorset and Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service said that as yet, no cause had been established and that investigations were continuing to see whether it may have been started deliberately.

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