A CAMPFIRE has been revealed to be the cause of a forest fire which destroyed 7,000 square metres of precious heathland and mature trees earlier in the week.

It happened at Wareham Forest - the same spot where a devastating fire in May last year destroyed hundreds of acres of forest and heathland. Forestry England said at the time it could take the forest decades to recover.

Last year's fire - described as "one of the most devastating fires in Dorset in living memory" - was started by a disposable barbecue and led to a major awareness campaign in a bid to crack down on fires in the countryside and the banning of throwaway BBQs.

Now it has emerged the cause of Monday's fire at Decoy Heath - although not as big as last year's still had the potential to cause tremendous damage - was started after it appeared people went into the woods and lit a campfire which then spread in the dry conditions. It came after an inspection by Forestry England.

Dorset Echo: Following an inspection Forestry England found a campfire which they believe caused the blaze. Picture: Forestry EnglandFollowing an inspection Forestry England found a campfire which they believe caused the blaze. Picture: Forestry England

Crews worked through the night tackling the fire after they were called at just before 3pm on Monday.

Fire engines and support appliances from across Dorset were called to tackle the blaze and they worked through the night rotating crews.

No rescues were required and there were no casualties.

Dorset & Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service issued an amber warning due to the high risk of heath fires for the next two days following the blaze.

An amber alert means that, should a wildfire be experienced, it could spread quickly and easily due to the dry conditions.

A spokesman for Forestry England's Dorset team said: "Damage caused by the fire earlier this week highlights the terrible impact of careless behaviour. Evidence of a campfire has been found and is thought to be the cause."

Dorset Echo: Fire at Wareham Forest on September 6. Picture: Forestry EnglandFire at Wareham Forest on September 6. Picture: Forestry England

Local councillor for Wareham Beryl Ezzard, said: "We have been lobbying towards banning all campfires and barbecues around forests in Dorset but it's hard to enforce on land which isn't owned by the council. I'm a big campaigner for people to stop having these fires here. We want people to enjoy themselves but not at the risk of our forests."

Speaking about the forest fire last year, Cllr Ezzard said: "It was devastating. We are very scared that these are going to happen more, especially with the dry weather that we have had. We try to put notices up to warn people against it - it is an ongoing danger."