Berkshire

Swinley Forest fire: two teenagers arrested

Two youths have been arrested on suspicion of arson after fires broke out in woodland in Berkshire.

Flames have swept through an area of about 300 hectares of Swinley Forest, near Ascot, since Monday.

About 100 firefighters tackled a series of fires for the third day as it continued to burn close to the Devil's Highway near Bracknell.

Thames Valley Police have not released any further information about the arrested pair.

Their arrests came after firefighters said they saw a group of teenagers running away after setting fire to woodland on Tuesday evening.

The A3095 Crowthorne Road is closed in both directions because of the fire, which has also affected the B3430 Nine Mile Ride between Crowthorne and the Coral Reef roundabout.

It is not known how the earlier fires started and people have been warned to take care when discarding cigarettes.

Nicole Targett, spokeswoman for Berkshire Fire and Rescue, said despite urging people to avoid the area, firefighters had surprised walkers in the forest close to the fire.

She said: "We can't keep them out. We can only warn them of the dangers."

Calm winds overnight stopped the fire from spreading, which allowed crews time to dampen down.

High-security Broadmoor Hospital is on the edge of the forest.

Station manager Paul Jones said: "We have to make sure that we don't push the fire in one direction where we could push it on to one of the houses, or the pub or the hospital or the main roads.

Image caption Conservationists said they were concerned about the impact of the fire on wildlife and plants

"The problem we have (is) there is still a lot of undergrowth which is still burning and there is still a lot which hasn't been burnt, so even if we don't extinguish it today, over the coming weeks and months if it carries on like this then we could find ourselves being called back."

Some nearby homes, which are made from wood, were evacuated as it was feared they could be caught up in the fire but residents have been allowed back to collect belongings.

Schools in nearby Bracknell and Crowthorne were closed on Tuesday but have since reopened.

Conservationists said they were concerned about the impact of the fire on wildlife and plants.

The 2,600-acre (1,052-hectare) forest contains conifer pine trees that are managed as timber crop and the woodland is also part of a Special Protection Area (SPA) for three rare birds - Dartford warblers, woodlarks and nightjars.

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