Suspected Exmoor arson destroys 900 acres

    Suspected Exmoor arson destroys 900 acres

30 April 2009

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 United Kingdom — A ferocious blaze which devastated 900 acres of Exmoor National Park on Saturday has left a farmer counting the cost of the suspected arson attack.

Some 90 firefighters spent 20 hours battling the flames at Warren Farm, near Simonsbath, in one of the largest moorland fires in recent history.

Farmer Andrew Hawkins, who rents the land from Exmoor National Park Authority, said: “This loss has cost me thousands of pounds, and the culmination of ten years’ work trying to manage this area for the benefit of wildlife and the heather has literally gone up in smoke.

“I can’t understand why anyone would do something like this.”

Eighteen fire appliances from across the county attended the incident and at the same time a house in Battleton was also ravaged by fire.

A police helicopter was scrambled to monitor the fire’s spread from the skies.

The blaze will also have affected wildlife. Skylark, meadow pipit and snipe may have been forced to flee the area, and frogs, lizards and adder may have been caught out by the speed of the raging fire.

Dr Graham Wills, head of conservation and land management at Exmoor National Park Authority, said: “This is a devastating loss for Mr Hawkins and the cost to him, the wildlife and the public purse is enormous – it will be some time before the landscape is restored.”

He added: “We would like to thank the fire service very much for their efforts in tackling the blaze.”

Fire crews stayed at the scene through the night to ensure the blaze out.

It may be some time before it is possible to see how deep the fire has burnt into the peat.

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