A rescue mission to save wildlife from the Wareham Forest fire is being coordinated by the Forestry Commission in conjunction with the Wiltshire and Dorset Fire Service, as the fire, while under control, continues to flare up.
Animal welfare teams including some from Swanage, have been doing their best to rescue surviving creatures and safely move them to unaffected areas of the forest.
One of the rescued lizards
A devastating 183 hectares of heath and woodland have been scorched and there are still hotspots meaning that the fire service, including the Swanage crew is expected to remain at the site for the remainder of the week.
An extensive scorched tract of Wareham Forest
This footage filmed by Wareham Fire Station shows the extent of the destruction to the wildlife habitat.
The Forestry Commission is working closely with Dorset and Wiltshire Fire Service to ensure safety is paramount, while still being able to help rehome the wildlife.
As much wildlife is being rescued as possible
A spokesperson for Dorset and Wiltshire Fire Service said:
“Where it is safe to do so, we are there to protect and save as much as possible during a fire, including the wildlife. We always take a steer from experts like the Forestry Commission on what habitat areas are the most important to protect.”
The animal welfare teams include experts from The Birds of Poole Harbour, Plantlife, RSPB and the National Trust. They all have to adhere to strict safety guidance and have been led by licensed reptile handlers.
This smooth snake was a lucky survivor
Sadly many animals, reptiles and birds have perished, although most birds were able to fly away and larger mammals like the deer were able to escape. It was the smaller creatures, like lizards, frogs and ground nesting birds that got trapped in the fire.
Swanage fire crew damping down the forest floor
Swanage Fire Station
Swanage Fire crew, alongside the crew from Wareham, have played a major role in combating the fire that raged furiously, sweeping quickly through the woodland and heath, fanned by a strong wind.
Swanage Fire Station said:
“It’s certainly turning into one of those weeks. Some of the pictures give an idea of the scale of the fire at Wareham Forest but it’s nowhere near the whole fire.”
Swanage Fire crew take on the key role of command support
As well as being on the frontline fighting the fire on Monday, yesterday the Swanage Crew took on the important role of command support which means they were at the heart of the operation, being a central point for all the radio messages and keeping track of when the crews needed to be relieved.
Today they played their part as the rolling relief crew.
Swanage Fire Station truck 16M1
The fire remains unexplained
Dorset Police is helping Dorset and Wiltshire Fire Service with its investigation into the cause of the fire and have appealed to anyone in the area on Monday 18th May 2020 to help them with their enquiries.
Detective Constable Richard Evans, of Weymouth CID, said:
“At this time the cause of the fire remains unexplained and we are liaising with the fire service to establish the full circumstances.
“To assist our enquiries, I am keen to hear from anyone who was in the area at the time and has any information as to how the fire started to contact us. I would also urge anyone who was driving in the area of Bere Road and Sugar Hill between around 8 am and 1 pm on Monday 18th May 2020 to check their dashcam for anything relevant.
“I would like to thank the fire service and all those involved in tackling this fire for their efforts to keep the local community safe over the last 24 hours.”
Anyone with information is asked to contact Dorset Police at www.dorset.police.uk, via email firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 101, quoting occurrence number 55200070290. Alternatively, to stay 100 per cent anonymous, contact the independent charity Crimestoppers online at Crimestoppers-uk.org or call freephone 0800 555 111.
Firefighters from Tisbury Fire Station in Wiltshire take a well earned break