Probe into gigantic February fire continues

Firefighters attempted to surround the blaze. Picture: West Sussex FRS
Firefighters attempted to surround the blaze. Picture: West Sussex FRS

Investigations are still ongoing after a fire ripped through swathes of heathland near Midhurst.

A blaze at Iping Common on February 28 that grew 22-times the size of London’s Trafalgar Square is still being looked into.

Picture: West Sussex FRS/Jon Lacey

Picture: West Sussex FRS/Jon Lacey

Click here to read our story about the breaking incident.

David Saunders, director of land management for Sussex Wildlife Trust, said: “Sussex Wildlife Trust wish to publicly commend the efforts of the fire service and thank them for their assistance.

“We would also like to apologise for any distress or concern caused to members of the local community and visitors to the reserve, some of whom have let us know how upset they are by the drastic change of scenery.”

The common is one of 32 nature reserves managed by the trust.

Picture:  Charles Homan

Picture: Charles Homan

Despite the efforts of staff and volunteers using fire beaters, the fire on the last day of February was not contained by the beaters or the internal fire breaks that were in place.

After decicated efforts the fire was put out later that day.

Mr Saunders added: “Sussex Wildlife Trust has been carrying out an investigation into the incident, and is checking that the correct procedures and safeguards were in place.

“As far as the effect on the nature reserve is concerned, although rather drastic visually at the moment, we know from past experiences elsewhere that the landscape will recover rapidly, and wildlife is already showing signs of re-colonising the burnt areas.

“Dartford warbler and woodlark have been seen since the fire, and plenty of suitable nesting habitat exists on the adjacent un-burnt sections of Iping Common.

“There will be an opportunity for those people who have expressed concern about the reserve and the wider public, to meet our staff at a drop-in day in the spring.Sussex Wildlife Trust Reserve Managers and our Senior Ecologist will be available to talk to visitors and answer any questions they may have.”