‘Generations of memories’ lost in destroyed stable after bonfire spreads

bonfire burley
A firefighter battles the flames (picture: Becky Browning)

“GENERATIONS of memories” were lost when flames spread from a bonfire and ripped through former stables on a Burley farm, destroying treasured family possessions.


Firefighters from five towns and villages were dispatched as the inferno raged at Rooks Farm, off Pound Lane in Burley, threatening a neighbouring home belonging to the local fire station’s watch manager.

The manager, Les Browning, raised the alarm around 6pm on Saturday after he spotted the fire from his kitchen window.

By the time he arrived with a fellow firefighter, Mr Browning found the blaze had quickly taken hold. Reinforcements from Ringwood, New Milton, Christchurch and Eastleigh responded.

While awaiting their arrival, Mr Browning and his colleague tackled the advancing flames from the farm’s driveway before being forced back by the heat. They retreated to his property from which they continued efforts to battle he flames with a hose reel.

Speaking afterwards, Mr Browning said: “The fire was going like the clappers when we pulled up, and with only two of us trying to stop it spreading, it was very difficult and very hot.”

The responding crews quickly brought the emergency under control, but the outbuilding and its contents were completely destroyed, along with nearby fencing. Heat from the inferno also cracked 38 panes of double glazing on Mr Browning’s house.

The smouldering remains (pic: HFRS)

Praising the firefighters for their efforts, the outbuilding’s owner Titia O’Riordan lamented the loss of prized possessions.

Mrs O’Riordan added she was embarrassment that a garden bonfire she had failed to properly extinguish was to blame after she had warned others of the dangers they can pose. She had mistakenly believed the embers were out before her family went back into the house.

“They [the firefighters] were brilliant; they arrived very quickly, were very efficient, kind and helpful,” she said.

“Sadly, I have lost so many family items that cannot be replaced; generations of memories were stored in trunks and cabinets and they are all gone.

“I had been telling people of the danger of fire spreading in the Forest during the dry weather but I didn’t listen to my own advice.”

As reported in the A&T, dozens of blazes caused by bonfires and barbecues had to be tackled across the New Forest and Christchurch the previous weekend despite warnings against them. Bans were put in place by fire services and forestry teams as the dry Forest was declared a high risk.

The ban continued last weekend even though the weather was cooler, but firefighters still had to attend some incidents.

Among these was an unattended smouldering campfire spotted by a member of the public in woodland at Godshill Inclosure, near Fordingbridge.

A post on the local fire station’s Twitter account on Sunday morning said: “Excellent spot by a member of the public as this could have potentially been more serious if left longer.

“Please don’t have any type of fire or barbecue in the [New Forest].”

The Rooks Farm emergency prompted Mr Browning to call for more volunteers to become on-call firefighters in Burley.

“Being a firefighter is very rewarding and public-spirited and you work as part of a close-knit team,” he said.

More information about becoming an on-call firefighter can be found on Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service’s website at https://bit.ly/3h9smou