Wareham Forest fire flare-ups continue to spread after six days

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Strong winds are still helping spread a forest fire which has been burning for six days in Dorset.

More than 150 firefighters remain at Wareham Forest dealing with hotspots and flare-ups. About 500 acres (200 hectares) have so far been damaged.

A helicopter was brought in to “water bomb” the area as smoke drifted as far as Bournemouth.

Dorset and Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service (DWFRS) said winds of up to 45mph were proving a “huge risk”.

Officials have urged people to avoid the area.

A tactical wildfire team from South Wales Fire and Rescue Service has joined the efforts to tackle the blaze and is helping to carry out overnight “controlled burns” to curb its spread.

DWFRS said water supply was a “real challenge” and more than five miles of hose was being used to extract water from the River Piddle to be brought close to the fire sites.

A specialist helicopter is also being used to help fight the fire from the air.

The aircraft uses an under-slung bucket which can hold up to 1,000 litres of water to be dropped on the fire, as directed by crews on the ground.

Anna Shepherd and her family were evacuated from their home near the forest when flare-ups worsened on Friday afternoon

“We were told we had to grab what we had and go. We just had to jump in the Land Rover and go,” she said.

“It’s windy again so I hope things are under control out there. I really want to get home.”

The blaze, which started on Monday, may initially have been started by a disposable barbecue or camp fire, investigators believe.

DWFRS said it had maintained a “significant presence” overnight, following further flare-ups on Friday.

“The strong winds of yesterday, which are continuing today, present a huge risk and have led to multiple hotspots flaring up and some fire spread,” it said.

The fire service repeated calls for members of the public to stay away from the area for walking or cycling.

“There are lots of vehicle movements, and miles of hose stretching along roads and paths. Even if an area looks safe, we cannot guarantee that it is,” it said.

“Firefighters are working incredibly hard, in arduous conditions, to bring this fire under control.”

The service also has volunteers patrolling other nearby heath land sites on bikes, including at Upton Heath and Canford Heath.

An amber alert for wildfire also remains in place for the weekend, meaning if another wildfire broke out it could spread quickly and easily due to the dry and windy conditions.

One third of the 3,700-acre forest is designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and is home to rare birds, plants and invertebrates.

On Wednesday, Forestry England estimated it could take the forest “decades” to recover.

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