Bonfire warning after Winfrith Heath nature reserve fire

image copyrightDWFRS
image captionAt its height, 45 firefighters dealt with the blaze on Winfrith Heath

A fire that destroyed heathland on a Dorset nature reserve is thought to have started following a bonfire.

Dorset and Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service said 45 firefighters dealt with the blaze on Winfrith Heath that broke out shortly after 20:00 BST on Sunday.

Dorset Wildlife Trust said the fire had caused "horrendous" damage to the landscape.

The fire service repeated warnings not to start bonfires, especially near such areas.

image copyrightDorset Wildlife Trust
image captionA hectare of heath and gorse was destroyed in the fire

A spokesperson for the brigade said a drone was used to help identify hotspots and an inspection on Monday morning confirmed the fire was fully out.

Chief fire officer Ben Ansell said such fires were "clearly avoidable" and diverted emergency services' resources during the coronavirus pandemic.

"The tips are shut, the green waste collection is not taking place, there has been beautiful weather and people have been gardening - we've been asking people not to burn their garden waste, but unfortunately some people have not heeded our advice," he added.

Dorset Wildlife Trust described the reserve, near Wareham as an "internationally important heathland and wetland".

Chief executive Brian Bleese said: "There's lots of burnt heather and burnt gorse which would have been home to nesting birds.

"It couldn't have happened at a worse time."

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