Heatwave blaze near Dorset beach tackled by 90 firefighters 'started by disposable barbecue'

·3 min read
Heavy smoke rising from the scene on Studland Heath, Dorset, as a drought has been declared for parts of England following the driest summer for 50 years. Picture date: Friday August 12, 2022.
A huge fire broke out on Friday at Studland Heath, Dorset. (PA)

A blaze that ravaged through heathland in Dorset during the UK's heatwave was most likely started by a disposable barbecue, firefighters said.

The huge fire at Studland on Friday ripped through the popular nature reserve and forced the beach there to be evacuated.

About 90 firefighters tackled the blaze and 10 engines were deployed from neighbouring areas.

They worked through the night into Saturday to get the fire, which was reported at 1pm, under control.

On Saturday, Dorset and Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service (DWFRS) said the most likely cause of the fire was a disposable barbecue.

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"We found evidence of a little camp where someone had used a disposable barbecue," said a spokeswoman for the fire service.

"We can’t say 100% that was the cause but when we find evidence we have to assume that’s the most likely cause – fires don’t just start on their own."

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The fire broke out as a number of supermarkets removed disposable barbecues from their shelves because of the danger they pose during the current heatwave.

DWFRS area manager Jason Moncrief told the BBC: "There can't be many people left in Britain who don't know the advice at the moment is do not use a disposable barbecue at these places.

"Bring a picnic, use our local cafes, restaurants and takeaways, don't bring a barbecue."

Handout photo issued by Ross Goldsmith of smoke rising from the scene on Studland Heath, Dorset, as a drought has been declared for parts of England following the driest summer for 50 years. Picture date: Friday August 12, 2022.
A fire at Studland Heath in Dorset on Friday was likely started by a disposable barbecue, firefighters said. (PA)
A fire engine on a chain ferry heading to the scene of a fire on Studland Heath, Dorset, as a drought has been declared for parts of England following the driest summer for 50 years. Picture date: Friday August 12, 2022.
A fire engine on a chain ferry heading to the scene of a fire on Studland Heath, Dorset. (PA)

Police evacuated Studland beach as the flames spread across the Isle of Purbeck, and the ferry linking Studland to Sandbanks in Poole was used to get people off the beach.

A number of supermarkets have banned disposable barbecues after fire brigades warned that dry conditions have made grassy areas “like tinderboxes”.

A Morrisons spokesman said: “In light of the long dry spell in the UK this summer we are temporarily removing disposable barbecues from all stores until further notice.”

Other supermarkets including Sainsbury’s and Marks and Spencer banned disposable barbecues earlier this month.

The Co-op announced in June last year it would no longer sell disposable barbecues in 130 shops situated in or within a one-mile radius of national parks, while in March this year Aldi said it would no longer sell the items in any of its UK supermarkets in a bid to protect the nation’s forests and wildlife.

Handout photo taken with permission from the Twitter feed of @JD_GardenM of heavy black smoke rising from the scene on Studland Heath, Dorset, as a drought has been declared for parts of England following the driest summer for 50 years. Picture date: Friday August 12, 2022.
Heavy black smoke rising from a blaze on Studland Heath, Dorset, on Friday. (PA)

The Met Office has issued an amber heat warning covering most of England and Wales, where temperatures of up to 34C are predicted for Saturday and Sunday.

This means heat-related illnesses including sunburn and heat exhaustion are “likely” among the general population, and delays to public transport are “possible”.

An official drought was declared in eight areas of England on Friday by the National Drought Group (NDG), which comprises representatives from the government, water companies, the Environment Agency (EA) and others.

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