Winds fan big fires in two counties

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The Independent Online
Large tracts of two counties were ablaze yesterday as hundreds of fire-fighters fought some of the largest fires seen for many years in Cornwall and on the Isle of Wight.

Fanned by high winds, walls of fire spread rapidly across bone-dry gorse and moor land. The fires are the latest in a series which have ignited the countryside during the current dry spell.

Fire crews in Cornwall fighting a huge gorse fire which devastated up to 1,000 acres between St Ives and St Just, said they saw flames moving faster than they could run.

The fire caused a huge pall of smoke which could be seen from several miles away and which one witness said looked like a nuclear bomb mushroom cloud. The main coast road between St Ives and Land's End was closed.

At the height of the blaze 120 firemen and support vehicles from all over the county fought the flames.

One fireman suffered superficial burns.

The affected area is one of western Europe's most historically significant landscapes.The fire-hit heath with its ancient field systems is an area of outstanding natural beauty, with Sites of Special Scientific Interest and is part of the Ministry of Agriculture's environmentally sensitive area scheme.

It also has one of the largest concentrations of scheduled ancient monuments in western Europe, according to the local council.

The blaze in Cornwall is the third huge fire to hit the West Country in recent weeks. After it was brought under control fire investigators moved in to investigate how it started.

Meanwhile, more than 100 firefighters battled to control a huge fire which engulfed 200 acres of Brighstone Forest on the Isle of Wight.

All the Isle's full-time and part-time firefighters converged on the scene as the blaze spread through tinder dry scrub and copse land.

As the fire spread, the island's brigade, Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service, sent over four appliances, a water carrier and fire crews by ferry.

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