A PROBE has been launched after an estimated six hectares of corn field was ruined in three fires yesterday – with two believed to have been arson attacks.
Firefighters were called to the three incidents yesterday afternoon – two in Weymouth and one between Winfrith and Lulworth- and Dorset Police have confirmed they will be investigating the causes.
The first incident happened just after 2pm when a blaze- thought to have been started deliberately- broke out in the cornfields alongside Littlemoor Road in Weymouth. The fire quickly spread, and crews from Weymouth, Dorchester and Portland all battled to put it out.
It took them just over an hour to extinguish the fire, and between four and five hectares of standing corn was destroyed in the blaze.
Dorset Police have confirmed they will be investigating the incident.
Charlie Pack, Weymouth station manager, said: "We believe the fire in Littlemoor was started deliberately. It may not have been the intention of those who started the fire for it to develop as it did. However, with the present weather conditions and tinder dry environment, fires can spread very quickly through vegetation.
“What starts off as a small fire can become a big incident which could not only injure those who set the fire, but cause huge disruption to the local community and tie up our resources which could be required for a life-saving rescue.
“I would also like to use the opportunity to remind people to be extremely mindful when disposing of smoking materials in these areas.”
Two eyewitnesses spoke of their shock after the fire in Littlemoor quickly spread through the fields.
Lewis Taylor, 15, was on an afternoon run when he came across the fire, and suffered minor injuries from the fire as he made the 999 call to report it.
Mr Taylor said: “I was running up the hill on my way home and I saw a huge plume of smoke.
“I got there and called 999 because it was spreading quickly, and I got hit by a bit of ash that caused some minor burns to my legs. I was a good distance away but I still got hit. It was such a huge shock to see the fire.”
Mum-of-two Rachel Scott was at a nearby park with her two sons, aged one and four, and could see the fire developing.
She said: “I was at the park and just saw the smoke and the flames. It literally spread over the whole field very quickly, we couldn’t believe it.
“The next thing was we saw all the fire engines and police cars rushing past to it.”
The second fire happened just before 3pm, when crews were called to fields alongside the road between Winfrith and Lulworth, with one hectare of land engulfed in flames.
Crews from Wareham and Dorchester rushed to the scene, and it took them just over an hour to fully extinguish the blaze, with a local farmer also joining in the efforts.
It is believed this fire was started accidentally after smoking materials were discarded carelessly.
The corn in both fields was standing corn – meaning it was yet to be harvested – and was completely destroyed in the blaze.
The third incident happened at 5.20pm, when an area of shrubbery by Lodmoor Nature Reserve was damaged in a blaze. One crew from Weymouth attended, and put out the fire using hose reel jets. Dorset Police were informed by the fire service, with a spokesman confirming there was a ‘possibility’ of the fire being started maliciously.