Swinley Forest fires continue to burn in Berkshire

Homes have been evacuated and schools and roads closed as crews continue to tackle four forest fires in Berkshire.

The fires have swept through an area of about 200 hectares (two square kilometres) of Swinley Forest, near Ascot, since Monday.

Police have closed at least eight roads in nearby Bracknell and Crowthorne.

About 13 houses in the Brookers Row area of Crowthorne have been evacuated and three schools shut. People have been warned to avoid the area.

Coral Reef water park and The Look Out discovery centre on Nine Mile Ride in Bracknell were also closed.

At the height of the fire, 150 firefighters from four counties, police, ambulance crews and a police helicopter worked to contain the flames.

Royal Berkshire Fire and Rescue Service said there were no current plans for any further evacuations. Residents have been advised to keep windows shut.

A spokesman said the woodland and undergrowth was "exceptionally dry".

"Strong winds have fanned sparks and spread the flames very quickly, making the job of the crews much more difficult," he said.

Impact on wildlife

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.

Natural England conservation officer Des Sussex said the timing was "dreadful" because it was nesting season, adding the habitat would take a "long time to recover".

On Saturday evening, crews were called to a separate fire at the forest, which was brought under control.

But another two fires broke out on Monday, one east of Nine Mile Ride and the other west of the same road. By the evening another two fires had broken out nearby.

A police spokesperson said: "There are a number of road closures in place which are clearly marked and are there to ensure the safety of the public, as smoke is reducing visibility in places.

"The smoke is not toxic but we are advising people in the area to stay indoors and close windows while the incident is being dealt with."

Edgbarrow School, Wildmoor Heath school and Crowthorne C of E Primary School, all in Crowthorne, were all closed for the day.

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