Forestry England starts clean-up operation following a fire which engulfed 190 hectares of heathland at Wareham Forest, Dorset


Forestry England starts clean-up operation following a fire which engulfed 190 hectares of heathland at Wareham Forest, Dorset

Since the fire started on Monday 18 May, firefighters from Dorset and Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service with support from others have been working extremely hard to bring the fire under control. The heat and smoke conditions have been very arduous. 

Wareham Forest, managed by Forestry England, is part of a large area of heathland in Dorset and is recognised internationally for the rare habitats and wildlife that lives there. This includes birds such as the nightjar and the Dartford warbler and every UK reptile species, including the rare smooth snake and sand lizard.

The area is still smouldering and satellite imagery has now revealed that the extent of the fire, at its peak, covered 190 hectares. Forestry England is currently working with other key agencies to assess the damage to the habitat.

Simon Smith, Head of Sustainable Land Management for Forestry England’s local team said:

“Thank you to all the fire crews, local partners and our forestry teams for their incredible work. This is a long, tough job in hot and smoky conditions.”

“Everyone’s hard work means we can now assess the damage to wildlife and the trees to begin planning the forest’s recovery. Sadly, I know from experience that it will take years, if not decades, for this habitat to recover. Hopefully, the impacts aren't as bad as they look at first.”

He added: “Forestry England’s local team still have a lot to do.  We will carry on dampening down the area to make sure the fire doesn’t re-light and the clean-up operation could take weeks.”


Drone footage
credit: Dorset & Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service

Wareham Forest fire damage visible, credit: Forestry England

Volunteers rescuing reptiles, credit: Forestry England

Notes to Editor

  1. Forestry England manages and cares for the nation’s 1,500 woods and forests, with over 230 million visits per year. As England’s largest land manager, we shape landscapes and are enhancing forests for people to enjoy, wildlife to flourish and businesses to grow. For more information visit Forestry England is an agency of the Forestry Commission.
  2. Wareham Forest, in Dorset, is an area of open heathland and wooded habitat covering 1500 hectares. One-third of Wareham Forest is SSSI and is a stronghold for ladybird spider and manyrare birds (including ground nesting birds such as woodlark), plants, moths and reptiles (in particular sand lizards and smooth snakes). The site contains 9 Scheduled Ancient Monuments, Bronze Age burial mounds.

Media Contacts:

Susan Smith
Media Officer, South Forest District, Forestry England
t: 0300 067 4123 m: 07384 878434

Esta Mion
Communications Manager, Forestry England, South District
m. 07900 137957