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Fire crews spend night on heath

PUBLISHED: 19:00 23 April 2003 | UPDATED: 13:46 03 March 2010

CREWS were damping down today at the site of an inferno which had to be tackled by a quarter of the county's fire fighters.

About 75 Suffolk fire fighters fought the two and a half square mile blaze which broke out at Lower Hollesley Common at noon yesterday.

CREWS were damping down today at the site of an inferno which had to be tackled by a quarter of the county's fire fighters.

About 75 Suffolk fire fighters fought the two and a half square mile blaze which broke out at Lower Hollesley Common at noon yesterday.

The inferno could be seen as far afield as Woodbridge as flames shot 30 ft into the air destroying trees, heathland and putting wildlife at risk.

The land is a designated site of special scientific interest and a special protection area.

Graham Smith, assistant chief fire officer for Suffolk, said fire service control room received dozens of calls from passers-by who spotted the flames.

"The control room was very, very busy for the first hour of the incident. The fire was well developed on arrival involving trees and undergrowth.

"It was a big fire and we had to deploy a considerable amount of resources. The fire has spread particularly fast because of the wind and dry conditions."

The dry, hot weather has seen number of similar heath and gorse fires all over the county – but this is the most serious outbreak this year.

A dozen engines from Orford, Woodbridge, Ipswich, Saxmundham, Felixstowe, Aldeburgh, Leiston and a water carrier from Framlingham, plus additional appliances were used to tackle the blaze. Crews were still at the scene last night and early this morning to dampen down flames.

The cause of the blaze was still being investigated but was most likely to be the result of carelessness – such as a discarded cigarette.

Warning people to take care in the countryside he said: "Don't use cigarettes, don't use barbecues and don't use flames of any sort at all is the general advice.

"If you leave discarded cigarettes in these hot dry conditions like this (which we have been having) it is neglect and dangerous."

"Once these fires start the flames can travel faster than someone can run."

Undergrowth fires broke out at Foxhall Stadium, Belmont Road and Ravenswood Avenue in Ipswich last night and there were also similar blazes off Brandon Road in Mildenhall and at Ingrams Well Road in Sudbury.

But there is likely to be a break from the dry conditions – for Friday and Saturday the forecast is rain.

Temperatures should drop from 16C (61F) to 14C (57F) on Friday, bringing moderate showers and on Saturday it should fall to 12C (54F), bringing moderate thundery rain.

An ambulance crew was on standby in Hollesley yesterday in case any of heat exhaustion because of the hot conditions crews have to work in.

Roads into Hollesley and to Hollesley Bay colony was closed for some time as the inferno tore through the countryside.

Meanwhile David Mason, from Suffolk Wildlife Trust, said it has put wildlife at risk including birds such as Woodlark, Nightjar and other species, such as Fallow Deer.

"This is a site of special scientific interest and a special protection area and is obviously of local, national and international importance," he said.

"It is a very valuable habitat which we have taken time to manage or improve and this can destroy all the work we have done in an afternoon.

"In the holiday period when there are a lot of people around the risk there is an increased risk of fires because there are a lot of people doing leisure activities.

"People need to be extremely cautious in this type of weather, particularly in areas like these which are near the coast when the winds tend to be a bit more fierce than in land.

"This area particular has a lot of forestry land and a lot of combustible material on the ground. The fire can spread and consequences can be very severe to species and to people."


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