Massive fire destroys huge section of ancient forest
- Credit: Archant
A huge blaze which destroyed 14,000sq m of Thetford Forest has prompted stark warnings about fire safety as an expected heatwave brings tinder dry conditions.
Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service, which dealt with the incident, Tweeted photos showing the shocking scale of the damage caused to the historic woodland - which took several days to fully extinguish.
Several pumps, a water carrier, misting units and a drone had to be sent to deal with the fire, which began on Friday, July 31 evening and was not fully extinguished until Sunday.
It had been started by a discarded glass bottle left in hot sunlight, prompting warnings from firefighters for people to take great care about dropping litter in tinder dry conditions.
“Please support us to keep you safe,” the fire service said, as sunny weather is set to see the county bask in temperatures of 30C and more in the coming days.
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“Take extra care in heat and take litter home.
“In tinder dry conditions, the risk of forestry fires is high.”
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Dave Goodrum, secretary of the Friends of Thetford Forest, said incidents like this one are often “down to people’s carelessness”.
He added: “We would encourage people to take their litter home.
“If you’ve brought it with you, you’re perfectly capable of taking it home. Don’t leave it behind.”
He added that Thetford Forest is likely to be at higher risk of fires at the moment - not just because of the dry conditions, but also because the forest is “more overgrown than it normally would be” from the coronavirus lockdown.
“The grass is longer because people haven’t been trampling all over it,” he said.
He added that fires not only harm the array of wildlife living at the Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), but also the long-term income of the Forestry Commission - which runs the site and provides timber for the nation.
Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service area commander Ken Williamson has also warned this week that accidental fires are a risk during warmer weather.
“The increasingly dry conditions make crops, grass, trees and undergrowth particularly vulnerable to fire,” he said.
“In the past we have seen acres of land destroyed because someone has flicked away their cigarette or not properly extinguished their disposable barbecue.
“We are asking people to be aware of these dangers and respect their surroundings.
“If you see a fire at any time of year, call 999 immediately.”
Thetford Forest is the largest man-made pine forest in the United Kingdom and covers an area about the size of a city.
Established in the 1920s by the Forestry Commission, it forms a large part of the history of the Brecks landscape and contains nearly 19,000 hectares of trees.
It is a habitat to a range of wildlife and has a large population of deer and muntjac, as well as a wide variety of birds.