Breaking: Huge heath fire tears through nature reserve in Dorset near upmarket Sandbanks – as people told to avoid the area
- The blaze has torn through a nature reserve on Dorset’s Studland peninsula
- Witnesses were shocked at how quickly the fire spread within minutes
- Dorset and Wiltshire Fire and Rescue arrived at the scene at 1.12pm
- The ferry at upmarket Sandbanks has been suspended temporarily to allow fire engines to get across
Holidaymakers are being warned to avoid a popular Devon beach after a roaring blaze broke out this afternoon as the UK’s drought sparks further chaos.
The large heath fire is tearing through a nature reserve next to a popular nudist spot on Knoll Beach, as it moves across Dorset’s Studland peninsula.
Cars were forced to evacuate the chain ferry – which usually carries tourists – to allow fire engines to tackle the flames.
The ferry at upmarket Sandbanks – home to several millionaires including Harry Redknapp – has been suspended until further notice.
The company said on social media: ‘Ferry Road is closed due to a large fire in Stutland. Emergency services are only letting people off the Studland Peninsula – the road is completely closed on the Studland side.’
The fire, which started just after 1pm, could be seen on the other side of Poole Harbour as at least four fire crews descended on the scene.
One witness, Becky Wood, said: ‘Within minutes we saw fire engines come up as well as an ambulance. The ferry was pretty much full and they had to get all the cars to reverse off the ferry in order to get the fire trucks and ambulance in to take them over.’
Witnesses were shocked at hour quickly the blaze had ripped through the Dorset nature reserve which is next to a nudist beach.
The blaze started close to Knoll Beach and is spreading through the tinder dry heath on Dorset’s Studland peninsula
Ms Wood added: ‘They’ve closed off the Poole side and there is no traffic allowed over to Swanage, they’re just diverting traffic and clearing the area.
‘It seems to be getting worse. At first we could just see the smoke as it was behind Shell Bay, but within 15 minutes it had spread down and we could see the flames. We were all shocked at how quickly the fire spread.
‘It’s best everyone avoids the area because I think they’ll be working for a while.’
Sandbanks Ferry announced the suspension of their service via social media because of the roaring blaze
Local buses have also had to suspend services as the fire rips through the nature reserve.
Morebus said on Twitter: ‘UPDATE – Breezer 50 – Due to a fire at Studland and the ferry being suspended the Breezer 50 will divert via road both way. We will NOT be serving any stops between ULWELL and the Ferry Terminal at this time’.
A Dorset and Wiltshire Fire and Rescue’s spokesman said: ‘We were called to Studland Heath at 1.12pm for a large fire involving undergrowth and gorse.
‘We have crews from Springbourne, Poole, Westbourne and Swanage in attendance, with other resources on the way.
‘We are asking people to leave the heath for their own safety, and to avoid Ferry Road.’
Studland and Godlingston Heath National Nature Reserve borders Studland Bay on the south side of Poole Harbour, and is found between Swanage and Sandbanks.
Just yesterday a red alert for wildfires was issued across Dorset due to the dry weather and heatwave conditions.
Swathes of England are officially in drought today amid scorching temperatures and hardly any rain since June.