Wareham Forest wildfire: Ecologists assess damage to wildlife

20 May 2020

Published by https://www.bbc.com

UNITED KINGDOM (ENGLAND) – A forest devastated by a vast fire could take “decades” to recover, Forestry England has said.

The blaze at Wareham Forest in Dorset which started on Monday spanned more than 470 acres (190 hectares).

More than 150 firefighters were at the scene overnight on Monday and about 100 are expected to be deployed later.

Forestry England said it was currently working with wildlife charities to assess the damage to the habitat and wildlife species.

One third of the 3,700-acre forest is designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and is home to rare birds, plants and invertebrates.

The forest is a habitat for all six species of British reptile – including the rare smooth snake and sand lizard – and hundreds are feared to have died.

Simon Smith, of Forestry England, said it had been a “long, tough job in hot and smoky conditions” for ecologists and firefighters.

“Sadly, I know from experience that it will take years, if not decades, for this habitat to recover,” he said.

“Hopefully, the impacts aren’t as bad as they look at first.”

A spokeswoman for Dorset and Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service said: “We had about 50 firefighters on scene overnight but expect to scale it back up to around 100 during the day as there are still so many hot spots.”

She added that crews were expected to be on scene for “a couple of days yet”.

The fire service said “smoke continues to rise from the scene and anyone affected by it is recommended to keep doors and windows closed”.

Sugar Hill Road remains closed with people being advised to avoid the area.

Dorset Police said the fire was still “unexplained” and appealed for information and dashcam footage.

The fire was beneath some high voltage electrical power lines which have had to be isolated by the National Grid.

SSEN said local power supplies had not been affected.

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