HomeNews UKCasualties of the heathland fire at Stephens Castle

Casualties of the heathland fire at Stephens Castle

Dorset is currently on amber bushfire alert, however a fire broke out at Stephens Castle, Verwood on Wednesday, devastating 4.7 hectares of rare lowland heather.

Firefighters use hoses to moisten hot spots on heathlandin

Teams from Dorset and Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service battled the blaze for eight hours before bringing the blaze under control. Crews are still on the scene today, two days after the initial ignition, which reduced the hot spots. While fighting the fire, the main water pipe they were using collapsed so they had to draw water from the pond of the wasteland.

When natural water sources are used in this way, the team checks and cleans the filter regularly. During routine checks, they discovered that several rare species of large newts (Triturus cristatus) and palmate newts (Lissotriton helveticus) had been sucked into the filter. This means they stop immediately and carefully release the amphibians back into the pond. Sadly, there have been several deaths, along with many creatures in the wasteland that have died in the flames.

DWFRS Wildfire Tactics Advisor Andy Elliott said:

“Wildfires at this time of year can be devastating to wildlife with ground-nesting birds, reptiles and amphibians all being hit hard. I am really pleased with how the crew responded so quickly to this unfortunate incident by immediately stopping all pumping and taking action to free the trapped newts. We have to thank our colleagues from Forestry UK, who provided the tractors and tractors to help us keep the shock absorbers.

This is just another hidden and perhaps unexpected cost of the wildfires that have become so common across our forests and heathers in recent times.

Ben Walbridge, Senior Ranger for Dorset Council East Greenspace Group said:

“It was heartbreaking to see the devastation left by the fire with the slow worms charred and other animals burned alive in the flames. The team has worked hard to reduce fire risk and improve wildland habitat for wildlife, with several hectares of gorse and shrub cleared last winter alone. We will continue to work with Fire and Natural England to reduce the risk and severity of fires, and restore our precious wastelands. To appreciate the importance of these sites, Dorset has less than 2.5% of the heather lowland remaining in the world and we are unlikely to suffer any more losses from the fires. like nowadays.”

The Urban Heaths Partnership (UHP) works to reduce the impact of wildfires on wastelands across Dorset, while protecting and enhancing these areas and improving understanding of habitats and history their history. People can help protect heathers from fire. If you see a fire, go to a safe place and call the fire service on 999.

Paul Attwell, Team Manager at The Urban Heaths Partnership commented:

“Heathland bushfires can put the public and firefighters at risk and devastate endangered plant and animal species, as well as put nearby homes at risk. Please be extra careful and vigilant in warm weather and report anything that looks like a possible fire, don’t wait and think someone else will. During this time, we will increase our collaborative staff and on-site volunteers to help contain major fires.”

All photos are credited to Urban Heaths Partnership.


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