On 18th May 2020, a massive fire broke out at Wareham Forest, in Dorset, which made national headlines. Due to high winds the fire burned for almost two weeks, eventually destroying about 550 acres (220 hectares). There was also a second fire, which was caused by a tree trunk that was still smouldering from the first fire.
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.
The photos here were taken in November 2020, six months after the devastating Wareham Forest fire took hold.
The charred remains of fir trees amongst the green shoots of grass, six months after the 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 blaze
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.
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.
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.
The blackened and charred remains of trees look like animals in a wilderness.
Please don’t smoke, use barbecues, or make any sort of 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 met a couple walking there and the man was smoking a cigar.
He pointed out 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. She 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.”
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 such as this can be the result. Such common sense really isn’t a lot to ask of people, is it?
A few green shoots still left amongst the fire damage at Wareham Forest, and green grass is returning.
The charcoal tree trunks of burnt fir trees at Wareham Forest.
Even the soil was burned in the huge fire, but small eucalyptus trees are starting to sprout.
Despite the devastation anhd chaos, some amazing colours have been created by the fire.