UPDATE: 100 firefighters still on scene at Wareham Forest blaze

UPDATE: 100 firefighters still on scene at Wareham Forest blaze

Published by George Sharpe at 7:33am 19th May 2020. (Updated at 4:04pm 19th May 2020)

Over 100 firefighters are still battling a fire that's affected 150 hectares of Wareham Forest

It's believed fire crews will remain there for at least the next 12 hours.

Dorset and Wiltshire Fire and Rescue declared the situation a major incident last night. 

Wareham Forest Fire

Over 150 firefighters from over 20 different stations were called to Wareham Forest around 12:30 pm yesterday.

More than 65 firefighters, 12 fire engines and three Land Rover pumps stayed at the scene of the fire overnight. 

Dorset and Wiltshire Fire and Rescue say good progress is being made.

Parts of the A35 are said to be impassable due to the smoke plume, and have been closed.

Power cuts are also a possibility for some residents, due to electricity pylons in the forest being affected by the fire.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation but an Amber Wildfire Alert is currently in place.

Dorset and Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service are reminding people to remain fire aware while out and about in the countryside:

  • Extinguish cigarettes properly, don't throw cigarette ends on the ground or out of car windows - take your litter home. 
  • Please avoid having BBQs on the heath or in open spaces. If you must have a BBQ, please ensure it is fully extinguished when you are finished and take all your rubbish away with you (including the BBQ!)
  • Avoid open fires in the countryside. If you must have them, then ensure they are fully extinguished before leaving them unattended.
  • If you see a fire in the countryside, report it immediately to the Fire & Rescue Service. Early detection can prevent it from developing into a large wildfire incident. 

What about the wildlife?

It could take years for wildlife to fully recover from this incident, according to Dorset Wildlife Trust. 

Hundreds, possibly thousands, of animals and plants will have perished in the fire.

Sally Welbourn from the Trust said:

"A fire at any time of the year is devastating for wildlife, but spring is such a key time with the breeding season being well underway for many species of wildlife.  

" The damage will also make it harder for the surviving wildlife to thrive on. We’re asking everyone to remain vigilant – just one spark can cause a fire like this on dry forests and nature reserves, destroying wildlife and years of careful conservation management, in just hours."

Appealing for information

Dorset Police are working DWFR to investigate the cause of the fire.

They are appealing for anyone with information or dashcam footage to come forward. 

Detective Constable Richard Evans, of Weymouth CID says:

“At this time the cause of the fire remains unexplained and we are liaising with the fire service to establish the full circumstances.

“To our 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 8am and 1pm on Monday 18 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.”