Upton Heath Fire Started Deliberately

A fire that raged through heathland in Poole and took almost 200 firefighters to stop it reaching homes has been put out.

On Thursday June 9th at around 2pm, residents living near Upton Heath were put on alert that their properties could be at risk when the fire, spanning more than 1,000 square metres, grew in strong winds. It's now destroyed around 73 hectares of land.

Emergency crews, who were called to the scene said the fire was the largest to hit the area since 1976.

Eight hours later firefighters had extinguished the blaze but were still putting out small pockets of fire and warned people to stay off the heath.

Upton Heath

On Friday June 10th, a spokesman for Dorset Fire and Rescue Service said:

 ''The fire is now out and all buildings are safe of fire.

''We are asking people to stay off the heath and keep themselves safe.''

Investigations into the cause of the fire are continuing but Keith Bacon, Area Commander for Bournemouth and Poole, confirmed it was ''malicious''.

Worst fire for 35 years

Some 30 appliances and 11 off-road Land Rovers attended the site where four people were treated for smoke inhalation.

One firefighter was also taken to hospital with ''extreme exhaustion'' while another suffered burns to his arm.

Homes in nearby Beacon Hill Road were evacuated while properties in Long Meadow Lane were also understood to be under threat. Everyone was allowed back to their homes after a few hours.

Upton Heath Fire

Police investigating the heath fire are renewing their appeal for witnesses to come forward.

Superintendent Mick Rogers of Dorset Police said:

“We will continue to work closely with our colleagues in Dorset Fire and Rescue Service and the local council across the coming weekend.

“As a result, it is likely that residents will notice a great deal of activity on the heath and I continue to urge members of the public to avoid this area.

“The police investigation is well underway and Safer Neighbourhood Teams are liaising with the community to provide reassurance.

“Rest assured that we are determined to trace the people responsible for this incredibly dangerous and damaging fire and bring them to justice.

“Anyone who witnessed any suspicious activity on or around the heath, and anyone who has any information about those responsible, should contact us as soon as possible.

“We are extremely grateful for the community’s continued assistance with this matter.”

Heath Fire

Witnesses and anyone with information should call Dorset Police in confidence on 01305 or 01202 22 22 22 quoting incident number 09:297. Alternatively, call the free and anonymous Crimestoppers line on 0800 555 111 where mobile phone tariffs may apply.

Meanwhile Dorset Wildlife Trust said the fire had devastated Upton Heath nature reserve, one of the most important wildlife sites in England, at the height of the bird and reptile breeding season.

Wildlife, including rare nightjars and Dartford warblers, and members of all six British species of reptile, have been killed, as an entire ecosystem was destroyed on the heathland, the Trust said.

Chief executive Simon Cripps said:

 ''This is a disaster that will set wildlife back by 20 years or more on this important site.

''Since we took on management of the site 13 years ago, our wardens and volunteers have worked tirelessly to improve the habitat.

''It is doubly heartbreaking that Dartford warbler numbers had already been halved by the cold winter and there is now little chance of recovery for them for many years.''

The Trust also said it was concerned about the implications of the fire for the local community, many of whom enjoy using the heath for recreation, and extended its sympathies to them and to people whose homes were threatened.

Upton Heath Fire

If you have any photos of the fire, please e-mail them to news.dorset@heart.co.uk