Woodbury blaze cause 'accidental' says fire commander

A FIRE authority worker has said the cause of a blaze which struck Woodbury Common this week was probably accidental, writes Graham Britton. Pete Smith, the incident commander charged with overseeing a substantial operation to bring the fire, which starte

A FIRE authority worker has said the cause of a blaze which struck Woodbury Common this week was probably accidental, writes Graham Britton.

Pete Smith, the incident commander charged with overseeing a substantial operation to bring the fire, which started at around 3.20pm on Tuesday, April 20, under control, believes it was caused by somebody disposing of a cigarette end.

More than 110 firefighters and a total of 16 appliances attended the incident and remained at the scene until 5.44am on Wednesday morning when the flames were finally out.

Devon and Somerset Fire Authority and Clinton Devon Estates are currently investigating the cause.


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Mr Smith said: "We had it under control at about 8pm. We believe the cause was accidental. "It was probably by somebody disposing of a cigarette end and tossing it into the bushes.

"Because the conditions are so dry at the moment, it only takes a small spark to get a fire going.

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"We would urge caution when people are out in the countryside with how they dispose of cigarette ends or how they light camp fires or even lighting fires in their gardens to get rid of rubbish.

"Our environment is really special and an important part of our tourist industry."

John Varley, estates director of Clinton Devon Estates, owners of land on Woodbury Common, said it was lucky nobody was hurt as a result of the blaze.

He said that one employee had to flee his tractor as it was engulfed in flames.

Mr Varley said: "He is safe and went on to help co-ordinate the efforts of the fire brigade and other organisations mobilised to put out the fire."

He added: "It was a close-run thing regarding the fire spreading to neighbouring property and the rest of the heaths."

Mr Varley said 200 acres were burnt out of the 2,800 acres of land.

Four appliances from Exmouth, Middlemoor, Budleigh Salterton and Topsham, attended the incident.

Eighteen water jets, hoses and beaters, were used to douse the flames.

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