Firefighters battle heath fire

MORE than 50 firefighters last nightbattled to contain a large heath fire close to one of the region's top private schools.The fire on isolated heathland was close to the Saint Felix and Saint George's school grounds near Southwold.

MORE than 50 firefighters last nightbattled to contain a large heath fire close to one of the region's top private schools.

The fire on isolated heathland was close to the Saint Felix and Saint George's school grounds near Southwold.

The alarm was raised shortly before 6pm when flames were spotted ripping through tinder dry gorse bushes and heathland.

Nine fire crews from north Suffolk including Southwold, Wrentham, Halesworth, Beccles, Leiston and three separate crews from Lowestoft fought the blaze.


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"This has been an extremely difficult fire to tackle," said Assistant Divisional Officer Nigel Richens.

"It has been very tiring for the firefighters who have not only had to tackle the flames but also had the problem of getting enough water on to an isolated area of heathland," he said.

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It was estimated that about 40 hectares of heathland and gorse bushes was involved in the fire.

By 8pm the fire was almost out but the fire crews knew they had many hours of work ahead of them with some likely to be at the scene all night.

The tinder dry conditions brought about by the recent heatwave meant that roots under the sandy soil could re-ignite at any time and start a fresh outbreak.

The heath could only be reached along sandy tracks leading from Halesworth Road, Reydon, near Southwold, close to the school buildings.

Fortunately there was only a slight breeze blowing and that helped take the fire away from the schools and other buildings closer to the main road from the A12 to Southwold.

"There was never any danger of any homes or other property becoming involved in the fire," said Mr Richens.

The fire crews had to cut paths through the dense gorse bushes in an attempt to reach the fire and there was a continuous relay of fire crews fetching water to the heath from standpipes on Halesworth Road.

"There will be fire crews here for many hours because of the dangers of the fire spreading underground in these dry conditions and starting again.

"With the soil being so dry the crews will have to literally soak the area to make sure that does not happen and that is physically draining for the crews and very water intensive," said Mr Richens.

The cause of the fire is not known but the area is one of the last remaining examples of Suffolk's coastland heath.

It is popular with walkers and nature lovers and forms part of an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

"We do not know how the fire started at this stage," said Mr Richens last night.

"Because the area is well used there are a number of paths through the heathland and fire crews were able to use these as fire breaks that prevented the flames from spreading further," said Mr Richens.

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