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Page last updated at 12:53 GMT, Thursday, 15 April 2010 13:53 UK
Dorset heath fire recovery 'takes decades'
Dartford Warbler (ANDY HARMER / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY)
The heathland is home to the Dartford Warbler, a protected bird species

The recent heath fires in Dorset have had a serious effect on rare wildlife and its habitats.

Areas of heathland damaged by fire can take decades to recover.

David Hodd from the National Trust, the owner of the heathland recently effected by fire at Studland, says the fire 'spreads faster than you can run'.

Eighty eight fire fighters were needed to tackle the 25 acre (9.7 hectare) fire at Godlingston Heath, home to all six species of reptiles in the UK.

'Gone up in smoke'

He said: "It's a really special place in wildlife terms.

"In particular it's one of the best places [in Britain] for sand lizards - but it's just gone up in smoke.

"Dartford Warblers occur in good numbers across the site but many of their nesting areas have been destroyed [in the fire]."

Both sand lizards and Dartford Warblers have protected status due to their rarity.

The heath fire is one of several to have happened in the Studland area recently - there have been three fires in the last seven weeks.

Planning

Gorse
Fire on gorse, bracken or heather can spread very quickly

Prompt action by fire crews ensured the fire damage is minimised as much as possible - the result of a long collaboration and planning between the National Trust and Dorset Fire and Rescue.

David Hodd said: "We have worked closely with the fire brigade over many years.

"The key bit is identifying [on the heathland] where the fire brigade can gain access quickly.

"We have to keep areas free to make what we call a 'defendable line'." (This is a notional line from which the fire crews base themselves to tackle the fire).

Having this strategy in place stopped a further 800 acre (323 hectare) of heath land from burning, David believes.

"If there's wind blowing in a certain direction, a fire on bracken, gorse or heather can spread quicker than you can run - and that's very frightening."

No litter, barbecues or smoking

David's message to people visiting Dorset's heathlands is simple.

He said: "Don't drop litter, don't light barbecues and don't smoke.

"We had a major fire about two years ago and we think it was started by a discarded cigarette.

"We're twitchy about having so many fires in such a short period of time."

Investigators believe that arsonists are responsible for the latest fire on Tuesday 13 April.




SEE ALSO
Major heathland fire 'was arson'
15 Apr 10 |  Dorset
Fire crews tackle two heath fires
08 Apr 10 |  Dorset


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