Damage assessed as hot weather sparks wildfires

 

Damage at Britain's largest cemetery was being assessed today after dry conditions caused by the unusually warm spring weather sparked wildfires.

A blaze raged yesterday over 17 acres of the 500-acre Brookwood Cemetery near Woking, Surrey, where more than 235,000 people have been buried since 1854.

More than 40 firefighters tackled the flames as fire chiefs warned that the lack of rain and tinder box dry conditions in the South East were the "perfect recipe" for wildfires.

The fire broke out as many parts of the UK sweltered in temperatures of above 20C (68F) - but the warm weather is not due to continue into the weekend, according to forecasters.

A Surrey Fire and Rescue Service spokesman said today that no properties were affected by the blaze, which was brought under control by around 4pm, two hours after it started.

He could not comment on the amount of damage caused.

Six fire engines, a water tanker and specialist off-road vehicles were drafted in to attack the flames from different areas, the fire service said.

Fire service area manager Alan Clark said wildfires were notoriously difficult to control, adding: "These fires cause devastation to the countryside, wildlife and property.

"They pose a risk to life, both to the public and the firefighters tackling these blazes."

Each year, there are around 79,000 wildfires in the UK - an average of 216 per day.

Brookwood Cemetery was consecrated by the Bishop of Winchester on November 7 1854 and opened to the public six days later. At the time it was believed to be the largest burial ground in the world.

Surrey County Council leader David Hodge said: "These blazes can start for all sorts of reasons.

"A moment of carelessness could result in devastation to the countryside and lives being put at risk."

Meanwhile, firefighters were returning to the hills above Harrogate, North Yorkshire, today after they spent yesterday afternoon tackling a large moor fire.

Crews from as far away as Tadcaster and neighbouring West Yorkshire were brought in to tackle the blaze on Hanging Moor, above the village of Thruscross, shortly before 2pm.

A spokeswoman for North Yorkshire Fire Service said a large number of firefighters were needed "due to the actual vastness of the moor" and it was burning over three different fronts.

One front is thought to be 200m long.

The spokeswoman said there were five different seats of fire identified. One crew was left monitoring the blaze overnight.

This morning, she said: "This fire is still burning and will continue to for some days. A cause has not yet been confirmed but further details will be supplied during the next few days."

A moorland fire in Edenfield, Lancashire, was under control today following an early morning inspection.

Crews from Lancashire and Greater Manchester were called to the blaze off Rochdale Road, near Scout Moor Wind Farm, at about 5pm yesterday.

They were confronted with a number of separate pockets of fire covering two square miles in what was described as a "very large" blaze.

Water firm United Utilities also provided specialist all-terrain vehicles to access remote parts of the areas affected, said Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service.

Firefighters were withdrawn at 7pm due to fading light after they were satisfied that no property or livestock was at risk.

A fire service spokeswoman confirmed the blaze had dissipated when crews returned at 5.30am today to reassess the situation.

John Clarke, the historical consultant at Brookwood Cemetery, said the fire damage was largely limited to adjoining heathland.

He said: "The main damage was to turf which turned black as the fire moved across it.

"There would have been more serious implications for the cemetery if the fire had spread in a different direction.

"Nevertheless, it is likely that some wildlife has been affected by the fire."

The fire brigade was continuing to monitor the area today in case of any flare-ups, he added.

A message reassuring friends and relatives of people who have memorials at the site was posted on the cemetery's website.

Part of it said: "Only a limited area of the cemetery was affected, in the area of plots 55 and 56 beyond All Hallows Avenue.

"The majority of the fire was centred on the adjoining heathland. We would like to reassure anyone concerned about damage to memorials that it is largely the turf that has been fire-damaged."

PA

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£30 - 35k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

Guru Careers: Software Engineer / Software Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software Engineer / Softw...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey/ South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before