A large blaze at a Dorset nature reserve was most likely caused by a barbecue, firefighters have said.
Firefighters battled through the night to bring the fire at Studland Heath under control on Friday.
Ninety firefighters were deployed when the blaze was first reported at about 1pm on Friday, and 10 fire engines were deployed from neighbouring areas, Dorset and Wiltshire fire and rescue service (DWFRS) said.
A spokeswoman for the force told the PA News agency a disposable barbecue was the most likely cause. “We found evidence of a little camp where someone had used a disposable barbecue; 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,” she said.
Dorset and Wiltshire fire service said there had been a near 500% increase in wildfires during the first 10 days of August this year compared with 2021.
Jason Moncrieff, area manager for the service, told the BBC’s Today programme: “It is a massive difference. The first 10 days of August this year versus last year there were 492% more of these types of fires. So that’s field fires, grass fires, heathland fires – all those sorts of fires in the open, a 492% increase this year.
He also said the fire on the Studland peninsula could have been avoided. “Amazingly, yesterday’s fire looks as though it was started by a disposable barbecue. There can’t be many people in Britain who don’t know the advice at the moment is not to bring a barbecue, do not use a barbecue, especially disposable barbecues at these places such as Studland Heath. That’s our message, bring a picnic – don’t bring a barbecue.
“It’s under control; it’s a lot better condition than it was yesterday [but] we’re probably going to be carrying on operations throughout the remainder of the day. How much longer I can’t really tell.”
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.
Fire crews in Derbyshire tackled a huge blazein Creswell, Worksop. Footage shared online showed flames filling the horizon and large plumes of smoke in the sky above a residential area.
Derbyshire fire and rescue service also fought embankment blazes beside a railway in Matlock, and near junction 26 of the M1.
The service said it was “planning for a busy weekend” of further fires, and echoed the plea for people to refrain from starting garden bonfires or using portable barbecues.
Some 35 firefighters were also deployed to tackle a two-hectare blaze at the Leyton Flats wildlife reserve in Waltham Forest, east London.