Yesterday fires broke out in four different areas of Swinley forest. 150 fire fighters from four fire and emergency services attended alongside police and ambulances. Forest Rangers were hauling water bowsers while a police helicopter overhead directed operations and was alert to fresh outbreaks.
Image copyright Ian Emery
Strong swirling winds ensured that the fires spread rapidly in the dry undergrowth. The fire travelled underground as well as over the surface. There has been little significant rain for several weeks and the rich leaf mould covering the ground and the resin in the trees is highly combustible.
The skies were dark and the air was thick with smoke, the smell permeating everything. Emergency services are expected to remain on site until it is certain that the fires have been extinguished. Today a pall of smoke hangs over the forest and the wind is picking up again so that any small smouldering could be fanned into life afresh. It will be several days before we can resume our customary walks in Crowthorne Forest.
Some businesses and houses were evacuated yesterday and today local schools close to the forest boundaries have been closed. There has been no loss of life and for that we are thankful but the police will now be actively seeking the person or persons unknown who set the fires.
Last night we took the dogs to Simon’s Wood beyond the opposite end of the village but we could still see and smell the smoke, so today they will have a rest. It’s not good for their lungs – or ours – to breathe in smoky air.
You can just make out a fire appliance with its blue flashing light in the centre of the photo.
A week ago Barry reported fire and emergency services were called out. We thought it had been quenched. Maybe it was, but fire reappeared in the same area, so it seems that someone was determined to burn the forest. It is a Site of Special Scientific Interest, where nightjar, Dartford warbler and woodlark breed. It is also one of the most important sites in the country for dragonflies and damselflies. 24 of the 38 species in the UK breed here.