ARSONISTS have been blamed for stating a fire which raged across heathland.

Eight fire crews tackled the blaze at Winfrith which was fanned by a strong wind.

Dorset Fire and Rescue Service was called to the fire on heathland close to Winfrith Newburgh this morning.

At the height of the incident 40 firefighters were helping to tackle the blaze, which started close to Gatemore Road and spread up the hill due to strong westerly winds.

The blaze left a large area of scorched and smouldering charred heath in its wake.

At around 9am crews were called to the blaze and initially crews from Swanage, Bere Regis and Wareham were called, before being joined by a further five crews.

Firefighters said there were ‘significant issues’ with the water supply as the area was remote and crews set up a water bowser.

Crews stayed on the scene for several hours, damping down and re-inspected the area throughout the day to make sure there were no hotspots that might cause the fire to restart.

The fire is believed to have started close to the road and spread with the direction of the wind up a hill close by. The cause of the fire is believed to be deliberate.

District commander for central Dorset Charlie Pack said: “We had a westerly wind blowing across the heath. The wind pushed the fire up the hill.”

When crews first arrived on scene they found a ‘significant fire’ working its way up the hill, Mr Pack said.

He added: “At its height we had eight fire engines here. It’s roughly 40 firefighters and the fire was stopped by a flanking attack.

“We pinched it. We prevented it going up the hill and moved it into a natural fire break.”

Crews used main line and hose reel jets to extinguish the fire.

Mr Pack said the safety message was for people to be cautious in the summer when disposing of barbecues and similar items.