Firefighters spend second day tackling fire at Holme Fen Nature Reserve

Two photos of the peat fire at Holme Fen Nature Reserve - provided by Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service
Two photos of the peat fire at Holme Fen Nature Reserve - provided by Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service
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Visitors to a nature reserve are being urged not to start camp fires and barbecues after a large fire spread through the forest

Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service were called at 11.47am yesterday (Thursday, August 13) to Holme Fen Nature Reserve, located to the south of Peterborough, where they found a peat fire about 30m by 30m in size.

The crew spent about four hours on site working around the fire in an attempt to stop it spreading before working alongside Natural England the following day to form a plan on what to do next.

It is thought the fire was started after a camp fire was not extinguished properly, or a cigarette butt badly discarded.

Craig Bellwood, reserve manager, said: “We have had seven fires in seven weeks. They are normally started by small campfires or barbecues.

“But because it is peat, fires need to be extinguished properly. It needs to be more than a drop of water and kicking the ashes away.

“We think this fire has been smouldering away for a couple of weeks now.

“A lot of heat builds up in the peat, and it really does smoulder away. There might not be any flames until it catches a bit of vegetation, but it keeps going. Even with the rain last night it has burning away.

“It has been a bit of a logistical problem tackling the fire, as the nearest Mere is about half a mile away from the fire.

“Our message is that people should come out and enjoy the nature reserve, and enjoy the countryside - but we would ask them not to light fires or barbecues in the reserve.”

Station Commander Mick Jackman said: “This is a large woodland site and the peat fire is currently about 30m by 30m and measures up to 3m deep in some places.

“The roots of about 20 birch trees have burnt away and they have collapsed and about four or five other trees are also caught up in the smouldering fire.

“We’re working with Natural England now to clear a path to enable easier access.

“We’ve deployed our specialist high volume pump and hose layer to the scene and have set up equipment to pump a large amount of water from a nearby lake onto the fire.

“We will also use hose reels and peat branches.

“The problem with peat is that it takes a very long time to put it out, and even with the rain that we’ve had it may still take a while to extinguish.”