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Cornwall Fire and Rescue Service issues wildfire warning

Cornwall Fire and Rescue Service is urging members of the public to be alert following a spate of moorland fires across the South West. 

The fire service has warned that this weekend there is likely to be elevated wildfire conditions. This is because the undergrowth is very dry and strong winds, which fan the flames and cause fires to develop and spread rapidly, have been forecast. 

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The warning comes following three separate blazes on Bodmin Moor and Dartmoor. 

On Thursday 11 February, crews battled a three-mile-wide gorse fire at Temple. Around 20 firefighters attended this incident. The service also responded to several other smaller fires on Bodmin Moor and near Bude. 

On the same day, crews in Devon tackled a large fire on Dartmoor and just two days previously, around 25 firefighters attended a serious blaze at Roseannon Downs, near Wadebridge. 

The recent fires in Cornwall are being treated as suspected arson, while the cause of the Dartmoor blaze is still being investigated.

Members of the public are urged to call Devon and Cornwall Police if they see people behaving suspiciously on moorland areas. 

Fire crews have been working with landowners to improve access and reduce the risk of fire by removing fallen trees and reducing undergrowth. However, the public is reminded to take extra care with cigarettes and naked flames. 

Following the latest fire at Temple, Anthony Bartlett, Assistant Chief Fire Officer at Cornwall Fire and Rescue Service, said: “Wildfires like many other incidents pose risks to firefighters as the dynamics of the situation can change rapidly. The wind driven aspect of this particular fire meant the fire was changing directions and travelling very quickly. The dark and terrain added further issues, but teams adapted and used the landscape to our benefit. Cornwall Fire and Rescue Service communicated with local landowners and established further risks such as a mine shaft, power lines and grazing animals. This local knowledge and collaborative approach were very beneficial. 

“As with most fires, wildfires have the potential to pollute the air, water and land. Wildfires may also contribute to climate change by releasing carbon stored in vegetation and peat soils. There may be other impacts on ecological assets, air quality, public health, heritage assets, flora and fauna, tourism and recreation, and food production. Fortunately, this incident was contained and resolved in under three hours minimising the impacts.” 

As well as posing a risk to the responding fire crews, wildfires can cause significant damage to the environment and local wildlife. 

Following the fire at Roseannon Downs on Tuesday, Callum Deveney, of Cornwall Wildlife Trust, said: “Arson is suspected to be the cause of a large moor fire which affected a nature reserve. The blaze tore through nearly 50 acres of the Rosenannon Downs Nature Reserve near Wadebridge, Cornwall. 

"These fires are started by people who clearly don't understand the damage they are doing.” 

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 Story posted 12 February 2021