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New Forest and Christchurch fire crews battle large heath blazes on county border

FIREFIGHTERS from the New Forest and Christchurch joined dozens of others in tackling blazes that devastated large areas of heathland on the Hampshire and Dorset border.

Both incidents – the first off Hurn Road at St Leonards and St Ives, near Ringwood, and the second at Boveridge Heath in Verwood – were reported within half an hour of each other yesterday (Monday).

Strong winds lashing the area were said by the fire service to have posed a significant challenge as efforts continued to bring both emergencies under control.

At its height, about 50 firefighters battled the blaze at St Leonards and St Ives (Photo: Dorset & Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service) (46825344)
At its height, about 50 firefighters battled the blaze at St Leonards and St Ives (Photo: Dorset & Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service) (46825344)

Crews from Brockenhurst, New Milton, Fordingbridge and Christchurch were among those who responded to a call-out around 2.20pm to the St Leonards and St Ives fire.

Flames engulfed heathland measuring 500 by 300 metres, and at their height about 50 firefighters from both Hampshire and Dorset battled to contain them.

The blaze was contained by around 7pm, and reduced crews remained for about another two hours.

The outbreak was believed to have started accidentally, according to a Dorset & Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service spokesperson.

Responding to reports of a rapidly escalating fire at Boveridge Heath around 2.50pm, crews from Brockenhurst, Burley, New Milton, Fordingbridge and Christchurch joined colleagues from the two services.

Flames consumed about 12.7 hectares of forestry plantation and around 90 firefighters battled to contain them in an effort that continued through the night.

Crew from Ringwood helped re-inspect the scene and contain hotspots on Tuesday morning, when Forestry England workers also attended.

The cause of this fire is still being investigated.

Anyone with information should contact Dorset officers on 101, quoting incident reference number 55210069298, or call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

Firefighters had also responded to smaller blazes in the open at Forest Front in Hythe shortly before 6pm last Wednesday, and at Fawley Inclosure around 5.15pm the following day. Both were quickly contained.

Police were informed of the incidents, but a spokesperson for the Hampshire force said neither was being treated as suspicious.

Both the New Forest and Dorset’s heathland areas are on amber wildfire alert meaning blazes can easily spread in dry and windy conditions. Barbecues, campfires and bonfires are currently forbidden at these sites.

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