Huge heath fire tears through nature reserve near Dorset nudist beach and millionaires’ playground of Sandbanks – as people told leave the area ‘for their own safety’ and 90 firefighters battle blaze
- The blaze started tearing through a nature reserve on Dorset’s Studland peninsula just after 1pm today
- Witnesses were shocked at how quickly the fire spread across the precious heath within just 15 minutes
- Dorset and Wiltshire Fire and Rescue arrived at the scene at 1.12pm with at least four fire crews called upon
- The ferry at upmarket Sandbanks has been suspended temporarily to allow fire engines to get across
Police have ordered people to avoid a popular Dorset beach after a roaring blaze broke out this afternoon as the UK’s drought sparks further chaos.
The large heath fire, being tackled by 90 firefighters, is tearing through a nature reserve next to a popular nudist spot on Knoll Beach, as it moves across Dorset’s Studland peninsula and a major incident has reportedly been declared.
The ferry at nearby upmarket Sandbanks – home to several millionaires – has been suspended until further notice.
Cars were forced to evacuate the chain ferry – which usually carries tourists – to allow fire engines to tackle the flames.
The company said on social media: ‘Ferry Road is closed due to a large fire in Studland. Emergency services are only letting people off the Studland Peninsula – the road is completely closed on the Studland side.’
The fire, which started just after 1pm, could be seen on the other side of Poole Harbour with witnesses suggesting the smoke was getting darker at around 3.40pm.
A Dorset and Wiltshire Fire and Rescue’s spokeswoman told MailOnline: ‘Access to the Studland peninsula is currently closed while Dorset & Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service deal with a large heath fire.
‘Crews were first called to Studland Heath at 1.12pm this afternoon (12 August), and there are currently approx. 90 firefighters tackling the blaze.’
The fire services are from from Springbourne, Blandford, Poole, Westbourne, Christchurch, Wareham, Swanage, Bridport, Redhill Park, Verwood, Bere Regis, Shaftesbury, Wimborne and New Milton, plus water carriers from Ringwood and Eastleigh.
A spokesperson added: ‘Multiple jets and beaters are being used to try and bring the fire under control. Studland and Godlingston Heath National Nature Reserve borders Studland Bay on the south side of Poole Harbour, and is found between Swanage and Sandbanks.’
The fire service also told people to keep doors and windows closed. A spokesperson added: ‘We were called to Studland Heath at 1.12pm for a large fire involving undergrowth and gorse.
‘We are asking people to leave the heath for their own safety, and to avoid Ferry Road.’
Due to the fire being either side of the main Ferry Road, access from and towards Swanage is currently closed.
Group manager of Dorset and Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Brad Stevens said: ‘The fire affects an area of around 200m x 200m, and is generating a lot of smoke. Anyone in the local area who is concerned should keep doors and windows closed. Our crews are fighting the fire on all sides, using multiple jets and beaters, and National Trust staff are using machinery to create a fire break.’
He added: ‘Anyone who is currently on the peninsula will be able to leave via the chain ferry, which is running one-way with passengers towards Poole only. This will be very busy as the evening goes on, so people are asked to be mindful of the potential delays and prepare accordingly.’
Anyone using the harbour is being asked to stay away from the chain ferry route, so they can continue to assist.
Video footage shows the roaring blaze and plumes of smoke above the precious nature reserve located near a nudist beach
At least four fire engine crews were called to the scene at 1.12pm with a major incident reportedly declared
The blaze started close to Knoll Beach and is spreading through the tinder dry heath on Dorset’s Studland peninsula
Police have warned people to avoid the heath and Ferry Road ‘for their own safety’ while the blaze is tackled by fire crews
While the Sandbanks Ferry has been suspended to the public, it is being used to transport fire engines across to Studland
The wild smoke can be seen from the millionaire’s resort of Sandbanks, previously home to Harry Redknapp and his family
As the blaze rips through the Dorset nature reserve, the chain ferry at the millionaire’s resort of Sandbanks has been suspended
One witness, Becky Wood, said: ‘Within minutes we saw fire engines come up as well as an ambulance. The ferry was pretty much full and they had to get all the cars to reverse off the ferry in order to get the fire trucks and ambulance in to take them over.’
Witnesses were shocked at hour quickly the blaze had ripped through the Dorset nature reserve which is next to a nudist beach.
Ms Wood added: ‘They’ve closed off the Poole side and there is no traffic allowed over to Swanage, they’re just diverting traffic and clearing the area.
‘It seems to be getting worse. At first we could just see the smoke as it was behind Shell Bay, but within 15 minutes it had spread down and we could see the flames. We were all shocked at how quickly the fire spread.
‘It’s best everyone avoids the area because I think they’ll be working for a while.’
The heavy smoke could be seen rising above the treeline as England officially went into a drought today following the driest summer in 50 years
Witnesses were shocked at how quickly the fire had spread within just 15 minutes as they warned people to stay away
People have been warned to stay clear of the area as approximately 90 firefighters attempts to tackle the flames and smoke
Plumes of smoke could be seen rising from the scene on Studland Heath from across the bay after the fire broke out this afternoon
Sandbanks Ferry announced the suspension of their service via social media because of the roaring blaze
People flocked to social media to share images of the fire, with one user (above) labelling the blaze as a ‘complete tragedy’.
The Sandbanks Ferry has been used to take stranded motorists away from the area to the millionaire’s resort. A partner of one of the staff at Sandbanks Ferry said crews are ‘shuttling the ferry non-stop to get people to safety’, Dorset Live reported.
Local buses have also had to suspend services as the fire rips through the nature reserve.
Morebus said on Twitter: ‘UPDATE – Breezer 50 – Due to a fire at Studland and the ferry being suspended the Breezer 50 will divert via road both way. We will NOT be serving any stops between ULWELL and the Ferry Terminal at this time’.
Just yesterday a red alert for wildfires was issued across Dorset due to the dry weather and heatwave conditions. A red alert means that, should a wildfire be experienced, it could spread quickly and easily due to the dry conditions.
The risk is greatest on large areas of open land, such as heathlands, fields and even cliffsides – evidenced by today’s fire.
Swathes of England are officially in drought today amid scorching temperatures and hardly any rain since June.
Where in the UK is there an official drought?
The Environment Agency has confirmed that eight of its 14 areas are officially experiencing drought.
- Devon and Cornwall
- Solent and South Downs
- Kent and South London
- Herts and North London
- East Anglia
- Lincolnshire and Northamptonshire
- East Midlands