THIRTY firefighters tackled a raging gorse blaze close to Osmington’s iconic White Horse landmark.

The fire broke out at 11.15am yesterday morning and rapidly spread across the bone-dry hillside.

Around 30 firefighters fought the blaze, using two Land Rovers from Maiden Newton and Bere Regis, an off-road fire engine from Bridport, fire engines from Weymouth, Maiden Newton, Dorchester and a specialist Unimog vehicle from Wareham.

The fire, which damaged four hectares – just under 10 acres – of gorseland, occurred on land belonging to Peter Broatch, of Northdown Farm.

The cause of the fire is not yet known, although a nearby landowner said it was believed to be ‘controlled burning of gorse’ that got out of control – as happened last month in the same location.

A spokesman for Dorset Fire and Rescue Service said: “We were called to White Horse Hill at 11.15am. Four hectares was alight. The fire was out by 2.55pm, although a couple of fire appliances and a Land Rover remained on the scene to ensure it did not reignite.

“With the weather being so dry these fires can start and spread very easily.”

Junior chef Jack Aston, of the Springhead pub in Sutton Poyntz, was the second caller to alert the fire service.

The 23-year-old from Preston said: “It’s the first time I’ve had to call the fire brigade.

“I just didn’t want anyone to be in there, that area is really popular with dog walkers.”

“The fire engines started screaming past, I don’t know how they got up that steep hill.

“In the space of over 20 minutes the fire literally doubled in size. The firefighters did well to calm it down.”

Assistant manager at the pub Ryan Larkman said: “It spread so quickly because it’s all so dry out now.”

Head chef James Wanless added: “We first thought it was crop burning but it became intense, you don’t usually see things like that around here.”

Neighbouring landowner Jan Critchell said: “It’s the wrong time to be burning the hill because of all the nesting birds and animals. Apparently it was a controlled burning of gorse that got out of control.

“The firefighters worked hard to put it out as it was close to thatched cottages at Sutton Poyntz and also to the White Horse – after spending all that money to restore it, it would’ve been such a shame.”

Controlled burning is allowed between November 1 and March 31.

Mr Broatch was unavailable for comment.


LAST month a farm worker suffered facial injuries when a bonfire raged out of control on White Horse Hill near Osmington.

The blaze damaged an area of gorse 880 metres by 70 metres in size, on February 20 at Northdown Farm.

Speaking at the time, landowner Peter Broatch praised the fire service’s quick response and said: “The farm workers tried really hard to put it out with fire beaters but the grass was so dry it just caught.”

Mr Broatch said the injured farm worker was not burned but ‘suffered a bit from the heat’. “He was fine and wanted to continue working.”