Upton Heath fire recovery 'may take decades'

Image source, DWFRS
Image caption,
The fire ripped through the nature reserve near Poole on Sunday afternoon

It could take "decades" for a nature reserve for nesting birds and reptiles to recover from the effects of a large fire, experts have said.

The blaze ripped through an area the size of three hectares (eight acres) of Upton Heath, near Poole on Sunday.

Dorset Wildlife Trust said a pair of flightless nightjar chicks recorded on the site "would not have survived".

About 100 firefighters tackled the blaze, which spread rapidly in the dry conditions.

The reserve is being monitored by fire crews to prevent it from reigniting.

Image source, NPAS Bournemouth
Image caption,
The police helicopter was flown over the reserve to seek out hotspots using thermal imagery

Nicki Brunt, from the trust, said: "We are so saddened. We will be spending the coming days and weeks assessing the damage to wildlife, and starting the recovery process.

"We know from experience that it will take years, if not decades for the habitat to recover."

In 2011, one sq km (247 acres) of the heath was destroyed by a fire.

The conservation charity said work to restore the area from that was still ongoing.

"So a fire such as this one is a massive step back for wildlife and conservationists," Mr Brunt added.

The reserve is recognised internationally for the rarity of its wildlife including the smooth snake and sand lizard.

The cause of Sunday's blaze is not yet known.

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