Wareham Forest, 6 Months after the May 2020 fire.

6 months after the Wareham Forest fire of May 2020, the ground is still blackened and scarred. Many trees and bushes were badly singed, or completely burned – many won’t recover. Wildlife was caught up in the fire too, and critical habitats destroyed.

Wareham Forest Fire – May 2020

On 18th May 2020, at around mid-day, a massive fire broke out at Wareham Forest, in Dorset, making national headlines. Due to high winds the fire burned for almost two weeks, eventually destroying about 550 acres (220 hectares), which is the equivalent of over 230 football pitches. There was also a second fire, which was caused by a tree trunk that was still smouldering from the first fire.

The fire was declared a ‘major incident’ on the night of 18 May and this status remained in place until 29 May.

Apart from the many trees, bushes and other plants, Wareham Forest is home to rare birds, including Dartford warblers and nightjars, reptiles such as sand lizards and smooth snakes, and insects. It is estimated that it will take 20-30 years for the heathland structure to redevelop.

Investigators believe the initial blaze was started by a disposable barbecue(s) or camp fire(s), although glass bottles were also found amongst the charred remains.

Wareham Forest comprises 1,500 hectares in total, a third of which is designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).

What does Wareham Forest look like 6 months later?

The photos on this page were taken in November 2020, 6 months after the blaze. They show just a bit of the damage caused by the huge fire at Wareham Forest.

Wareham Forest  - the charred remains of fir trees 6 months after the May 2020 forest fire.

The charred remains of fir trees amongst the green shoots of grass, 6 months after the fire.

Some trees still show signs of life after the May 2020 Wareham Forest fire.

Some trees were completely burned in the fierce fire, but some were partially singed and still show signs of life.

Hundreds of firefighters fought the Wareham Forest fire

At the peak of the fire, Dorset & Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service (DWFRS) had 25 fire appliances, additional 4×4 vehicles and around 150 firefighters at the scene.

Forestry England said that tackling the blaze (and resultant flare-ups) required hundreds of extra firefighters to support Dorset & Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service (DWFRS), including some from Avon, Devon & Somerset, Hampshire, Royal Berkshire, South Wales and West Sussex. Specialist advisors from Forestry England, Dorset Police and many volunteers also helped out.

The estimated cost of the fire to Dorset & Wiltshire Fire & Rescue was around £500,000.

Some trees were spared during the May 2020 Wareham Forest fire.

In some areas the forest fire was halted in its tracks by a pathway. The trunks of the trees on the right might look damaged but, in fact, they were unscathed.

Charred tree trunks 6 months after the Wareham Forest fire of May 2020.

The blackened and charred remains of trees look like animals in a wilderness.

Blackened trees 6 months after the May 2020 Wareham Forest fire.
Blackened trees 6 months after the May 2020 Wareham Forest fire.

Man smoking a cigar in Wareham Forest a week after the fire

On one of my trips to see the fire damage, I met a man who was photographing birds. He told me that just a week after the fire he’d met a couple walking in the Forest and the man was smoking a cigar.

He pointed out to him that there had been a huge fire just a week before, and asked the man if he thought it was sensible to be smoking, particuarly as the area was clearly tinder dry. This was met with volley of abuse from the man’s female companion… “He can smoke if he wants to…it’s nothing to do with you!” etc., etc.

The woman then went on to say that if they caused a fire she would put it out with the contents of her water bottle. The photographer had a brilliant reply. “Okay, so next time I’ll tell the the hundreds of firefighters that they won’t be needed, because you can put the fire out with the contents of your water bottle.”

People caught in Wareham Forest with barbecues and camp fire

In June 2020 (a month after the fire), a group of fifteen people were caught in the middle of Wareham Forest with barbecues and a camp fire. Firefighters extinguished the fire and the barbecue equipment was confiscated. You can read about this here.

Fires of any sort are prohibited in all woods and forests

It should be noted that fires of any type (including disposable barbecues) are prohibited from the nation’s forests and woods. If you are thinking of taking a trip to any wooded area, please don’t smoke, or make any sort of fire, because destruction like this can be the result.  Such common sense really isn’t a lot to ask of people, is it?

#BringAPicnicNotABBQ

A few green shoots still left amongst the fire damage at Wareham Forest.

A few green shoots still left amongst the fire damage at Wareham Forest, and green grass is returning.

Charred tree trunks 6 months after the Wareham Forest fire of May 2020.

The charcoal tree trunks of burnt fir trees at Wareham Forest.

Even the soil was burned in the fire.

Even the soil was burned in the huge fire, but small eucalyptus trees are starting to sprout.

Amazing colours created by the fire damage.

Despite the devastation and chaos, some amazing colours have been created by the fire.

Amazing colours produced by the fire damage.
Amazing colours created by the Wareham Forest fire.

Recovery of Wareham Forest after the May 2020 fire

What does the future hold for Wareham Forest after the fire? Forestry England had a fundraising appeal, which raised over £5000. This was to help restore the Forest and plan for the future. You can read about this here:

https://www.forestryengland.uk/help-wareham-forest

Charities, including the RSPB, have criticised the restoration of Wareham Forest, amid concerns about wildlife. You can read about their concerns here:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-dorset-56017253

#BringAPicnicNotABBQ