A huge forest fire has been declared a major incident as more than 150 firefighters have been battling the blaze - and crews expect to remain at the scene for 'several days'.

Emergency services were called to Wareham Forest yesterday afternoon, where approximately 100 hectares of heath and woodland have so far been ravaged by fire.

According to Dorset and Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service, strong winds were fanning the flames. 

Dorset Echo:

  • More than 150 firefighters are now at the scene Picture: DWFRS

Initially, 14 fire engines were sent to the scene. This was later increased to 28, and more than 150 firefighters have been tackling the blaze at Sugar Hill in Bere Road.

A spokesman for Dorset and Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service said last night it's going to be a long-lasting incident they expect to carry on for at least the next 24 hours.

This afternoon in an updated statement, the fire service has confirmed that crews are still battling to control the situation.

A spokesman said: "Dorset & Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service still has nearly 100 firefighters working extremely hard in very hot conditions to bring a huge heath fire in Wareham Forest under control.

"The fire, which is affecting some 180 hectares of heath and woodland at Wareham Forest, started yesterday afternoon. While the main blaze is under control, there are numerous hot spots across a vast area, and fire crews are expected to be on scene for several more days.

"Twelve fire engines, ten Land Rover pumps and a number of support appliances are currently at scene, drawn from across Dorset and Wiltshire. During the incident, there has also been support from Devon & Somerset FRS and Hampshire FRS, both with crews attending the fire and others providing fire cover.

"Firefighters are using hose reel jets, main lines and beaters to bring the fire to a close, and several miles of hose have been laid to the River Piddle to boost water provision, using high volume pumps from Christchurch and Wellington.

"Smoke is still rising from the scene and affecting a wide area, particularly towards Bournemouth, Poole, Wimborne and Ferndown. If you are affected and are concerned, please keep windows and doors closed as a precaution.

"At this stage, the cause of the fire remains under investigation."

Aerial photos taken by NPAS show the sheer scale of the blaze and the devastation caused.

People are urged to avoid the area and keep windows closed due to the smoke, particularly if you are experiencing coronavirus symptoms.

The A35, between Bere Regis and Morden Park Corner, as well as Sugar Hill and Bere Road have been closed due to the smoke plume affecting a wide area and making them impassable.

They are likely to remain closed today and you are advised to check your route before travelling.

The smoke is being blown towards the Bournemouth, Poole, Ferndown and Wimborne areas. 

  • Smoke billowing from the forest     Video by Sam Barnes

Local people are also being made aware that due to the electricity pylons in the forest being affected by the fire, there may be some disruption to supplies in the local area.

Residents should use the 105 service if they experience a power cut.

Dorset Echo:

  • Crews at the scene last night  Picture: BEAMINSTER FIRE STATIOBN/DWFRS

Currently at the scene are crews from Bere Regis, two from Wareham, Wimborne, two from Christchurch, three from Poole, Weymouth, Westbourne, two from Blandford, two from Dorchester, two from Swanage, Ferndown, Redhill Park, two from Sturminster Newton, Shaftesbury, two from Bridport, Verwood, Springbourne, Warminster and New Milton.

Also on scene are a Unimog from Wareham; water carriers from Poole, Christchurch, Bridport and Yeovil; Land Rover pumps from Poole, Hamworthy, Wimborne, Swanage, Ferndown, Blandford, Christchurch, Beaminster and Charmouth; support units from Hamworthy, Sherborne and Ferndown; and the high volume pump from Christchurch.

Crews are using hose reel jets, main lines and beaters to tackle the fire. Sugar Hill and Bere Road have been closed as the smoke has made them impassable.

Dorset Police received a report shortly after 1pm yesterday from the fire service in relation to a large fire in the area of Sugar Hill and Bere Road near Wareham.

Officers attended and put road closures in place on Bere Road between the A35 and Wareham.

The Dorset Marine Policing Team is assisting with the incident along with the NPAS helicopter.

In an update at around 10am today (Tuesday) Dorset & Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service confirmed there are still 100 firefighters on scene; they will remain in attendance for at least the next 12 hours.

A spokesman said: "The fire is believed to have affected 183 hectares of forest and heathland. The A35 is still closed at BereRegis due to the smoke. 

"Please stay away from the area and find an alternative route. Residents in the Bournemouth, Poole, Ferndown and Wimborne areas should keep their windows and doors closed today due to the smoke plume. There is currently no disruption to electricity supplies."

At around 10.35am the A35 at Bloxworth reopened.