Woodbury wildfire awareness event to inform public on preventing disaster
PUBLISHED: 16:03 29 March 2018
An event at Woobury Common next week aims to prevent wildfires after one ripped through 40-hectares of East Devon's Pebblebed heaths last year.
Clinton Devon Estates and Devon and Somerset Fire Service are hosting a public event next week to inform people about the risks of wildfires.
On April 23 last year, it took 160 firefighters eight hours to extinguish a wildfire which swept across 40-hectares of the East Devon Pebblebed Heaths.
The fire service sent 20 fire appliances to the blaze at Colaton Raleigh Common, which caused two firefighters to suffer minor smoke inhalation injuries.
Commander Nigel Alford, a member of the fire service’s investigation management team, said it was the most difficult countryside fire he had experienced in his 28-year career.
He said: “Last year’s fire was particularly difficult because of strong winds and then a 20-degree change in direction in the midst of it.”
This was the third major fire at the conservation site in seven years. And the trust wants to inform people about risk factors and action that can be taken to prevent future incidents.
Pebblebed Heaths site manager Kim Strawbridge said she hoped as many people as possible would attend the event.
She said: “Uncontrolled fire poses a real risk to wildlife and can undo decades of work by levelling the heath vegetation.
“If this occurs over a large area we lose the all-important diversity of structure in the habitats that allows our key species to thrive.”
Ms Strawbridge said spring fires were particularly devastating because the eggs and chicks of nesting birds could be destroyed.
“Reptiles are also vulnerable because of their inability to escape; the lack of cover following a fire also makes them an easy target for predators while the area recovers,” she added.
The main areas the trust wants to highlight are: risks associated with prolonged dry periods; the need for vigilance; and the importance of reporting a fire immediately by dialling 999.
The event will also inform people about ‘swailing’, which is the controlled burning of heathland carried out by specially trained personnel – not to be confused with wildfires.
People will have the opportunity to meet local firefighters and see their 4x4 fire engine, designed for tough terrain, up close.
Visitors will also be able to see equipment used by the trust’s rangers and find out more about their work cutting fire breaks through the undergrowth to prevent flames spreading.
Experts will be on hand to inform people about the role they can play in the collaborative effort to prevent wild fires.
The Heathland Fire Prevention event is open to all and will take place on Tuesday, April 3, between 11am and 2pm, near Warren car park, on the B3180.