Environment, Latest News, Wareham, Wildlife | Posted: Thursday, May 21st, 2020 at 3:24 pm | return to news

Wareham Forest fire not believed to be malicious

Detectives working with the fire service to investigate a large forest fire near Wareham have confirmed that the cause is not believed to be malicious.

Photograph courtesy Forestry England showing fire damage
Photograph courtesy Forestry England showing fire damage

The fire broke out on Monday 18 May in the area of Sugar Hill and road closures had to be put in place. Nearly 200 hectares of forest and heathland were damaged.

Fire crews are still at the scene monitoring the situation and road closures continue to be in place along Bere Road and Sugar Hill.

An appeal was issued for anyone with information in relation to how the fire started or anyone with dashcam footage from the area on the morning of Monday 18 May to come forward.

“We have received a number of responses to the appeal and I would like to thank everyone who has come forward with information to assist our investigation in relation to this incident,” said Detective Inspector Scott Johnson of Weymouth CID. “After conducting a number of enquiries and liaising with the fire service, we can confirm that there is no information to indicate that the cause of the fire is deliberate or suspicious. Investigation work continues to establish the exact cause but it is believed to be accidental.

“I would like to stress again our thanks to the firefighters and all those supporting the multi-agency response to this incident in recent days for their tireless efforts to tackle the fire and protect members of the public.

“I would also like to thank the local community for their support they have shown and their patience and understanding while the road closures remain in place.”


Forest Edge Solicitors


Forest Edge Solicitors

Wareham Forest is managed by Forestry England and is part of a large area of heathland in Dorset recognised internationally for the rare habitats and wildlife that lives there. This includes birds such as the nightjar and the Dartford warbler and every UK reptile species, including the rare smooth snake and sand lizard. The area is still smouldering and satellite imagery has now revealed that the extent of the fire, at its peak, covered 190 hectares. Forestry England is currently working with other key agencies to assess the damage to the habitat.

Simon Smith, Head of Sustainable Land Management for Forestry England’s local team said, “Thank you to all the fire crews, local partners and our forestry teams for their incredible work. This is a long, tough job in hot and smoky conditions.

“Everyone’s hard work means we can now assess the damage to wildlife and the trees to begin planning the forest’s recovery. Sadly, I know from experience that it will take years, if not decades, for this habitat to recover. Hopefully, the impacts aren’t as bad as they look at first.”

He added: “Forestry England’s local team still have a lot to do. We will carry on dampening down the area to make sure the fire doesn’t re-light and the clean-up operation could take weeks.”

Drone footage by Dorset & Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service can be found here:

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