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Last Updated: Monday, 17 July 2006, 13:05 GMT 14:05 UK
Fresh hope for heathland recovery
Smoke seen from Puttenham on Saturday evening (taken by Maarten Meerman)
Thick smoke could be seen nearly 10 miles to the north on Saturday
A three-day heathland fire in Surrey has not caused as much damage as was first thought, English Nature has said.

Latest estimates said about 60% of the National Nature Reserve at Thursley Common had been scorched by the blaze.

But the silver-studded blue butterfly population has "miraculously survived the fire", while some rabbits and badgers managed to burrow to safety.

About 50 firefighters are tackling hot spots which continue to "pop up all over the place" during the hot weather.

The blaze was first reported at about 1230 BST on Friday.

The number of crews dealing with the fire fluctuated over the weekend as windy and dry conditions helped it to spread.

Aerial view of Thursley Common (from Surrey Police)
The fire has damaged large areas of the heathland

English Nature's Simon Nobes said on Monday: "The fire has been brought under control for the moment and the heath is now littered with smouldering hot spots.

"Now we're tackling the fire where it has burned down to the peat and trying to stop it spreading once again."

The estimated area of heathland destroyed has now been downgraded from 90% to 60%.

Mr Nobes said there would have been many casualties among ground-nesting birds, insects, sand lizards and adders.

A 52-year-old local man who was arrested on suspicion of arson is on police bail as inquiries continue.

Another six men held after a group of people racing horse traps broke through police cordons around the fire area have also been bailed.


SEE ALSO
Man bailed as heath fire burns on
16 Jul 06 |  Southern Counties
Heathland fire continues to burn
16 Jul 06 |  Southern Counties
Fire sweeps across nature reserve
14 Jul 06 |  Southern Counties

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