Swinley Forest: Two years on from devastating forest fire

Swinley Forest: Two years on from devastating forest fire

20 May 2013

published by www.getbracknell.co.uk

United Kingdom — Just over two years ago, firefighters from across the country were battling the biggest forest fire ever seen in Bracknell.

Hundreds of firefighters were deployed to fight the blaze in Swinley Forest.

HUGH FORT looked at what had been done in the woodland since the blaze to reduce the chances of a serious fire happening again

Two years ago, firefighters handed control of Swinley Forest back to the Forestry Commission after spending more than three weeks tackling an enormous forest fire.

The inferno was deemed the biggest in the South East since the end of the Second World War.

Flames leapt into the sky and clouds of smoke could be seen from miles around as the blaze spread quickly through the bone-dry undergrowth.

During the operation firefighters told the Bracknell Forest Standard how on a number of occasions they had to leap and run from sudden explosions of flames from the ground as the fire ‘jumped’ from the vegetation into trees.

The blaze was in a huge area of woodland covering land between Crowthorne, Sandhurst and Bracknell, which led to traffic problems after police had to close the surrounding roads.

At its peak more than 300 firefighters were in the forest trying to dowse the flames, which severely damaged 55 per cent of the 300 hectares the fire covered.

Families living in Brookers Row in Crowthorne were evacuated from their homes at one point as the flames got closer, but no houseswere damaged.

At the time, experts said it may take 20 years for the forest to fully recover.

Two years on, a huge amount of work has been done to carry out the restoration.

The Forestry Commission has been working closely with Bracknell Forest Council to re-design the forest and replant ‘fire-proof’ trees.

The tree replanting operation has now finished and 51,000 trees have been planted.

Part of the problem with the fire in 2011 was that the flames were able to ‘jump’ from tree to tree, but it is hoped the breaks will make any fires easier to control.

A spokesman added trees which are more resilient to fire have been included, including Scots pine, atlas cedar and western oak.

Louise Osborne, Bracknell Forest Council’s emergency planning manager, said: “From a local authority point of view we have worked very closely with the Forestry Commission to select the species of trees which are more fire-resistant.

“The commission has also been working very closely with the planning department to plan the proposed development at the TRL site in Crowthorne, which is close to the forest.”

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