A WILDFIRE that destroyed approximately one hectare of heath, gorse and trees at Studland yesterday was probably started deliberately, firefighters say.
Around 60 Dorset Fire and Rescue Service firefighters attended the blaze, which took hold close to the Knoll House Hotel, Ferry Road, around 1.30pm.
Six fire engines, seven Land Rovers and the Unimog all-terrain vehicle were used to fight the large blaze. One firefighter was taken to hospital suffering from the effects of heat.
Smoke could even be seen from Bournemouth beach.
National Trust spokesman Jon Bish told the Daily Echo: “We are still assessing the situation after this particular fire but mature heathland like this can take about 30 years until it reaches its full potential again.
“As an example, there was a fire on Studland Heath in May 2008 which was a bit larger, about six acres. We estimated around 500 reptiles were either killed in the fire or eaten by predators trying to escape.”
At one point around 60 firefighters worked to bring the blaze under control, which took hold close to Knoll House Hotel, Ferry Road, around 1.30pm.
Investigations into how the blaze started are ongoing.
Incident commander Sean Frampton told the Daily Echo: “We had difficulties getting access. Only smaller, lighter vehicles were able to be used to get us to the fire because of the terrain.”
He said it took an hour-and-a-half to bring the blaze under control, to the stage where firefighters could concentrate on damping down.
Fire investigation officers will also examine charred remains in a bid to pinpoint what caused the fire.
Mr Frampton said: “It’s been a hot day and crews worked extremely hard to put the fire out.
“The fire was probably deliberate and we will be investigating.
Obviously, at this time of year heath fires are going to spread quite quickly. It is very dry and we’ve had a lot of growth.
“People really need to take extra care when it comes to disposing of cigarettes and barbecues, just be careful on the heath.
“The wind we had today forced the fire inland away from the sea. If it had been a little bit stronger, people walking on the heath could have become caught out.”