Barbecue warning after fire destroys UK nature reserve in Devon putting wildlife at risk

Watch more of our videos on Shots! 
and live on Freeview channel 276
Visit Shots! now
Devon Wildlife Trust has issued advice to the public to reduce the risk of fires to protect “our precious countryside” as it can take “years” for a site to recover

A Wildlife Trust has issued a warning about the dangers of wildfires after part of a UK nature reserve, which is home to the most threatened butterflies, was set ablaze.

The fire destroyed an area at Dunsford nature reserve in Dartmoor’s Teign Valley on Wednesday (24 May), covering about 1,150ft (350m) by 165ft (50m).

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Ed Hopkinson, from Devon Wildlife Trust, said it is a “timely reminder that our precious countryside is at greater risk from wildfires as a result of climate change.”

Eight fire crews were called to tackle the blaze just after 6pm and the fire was extinguished by around 9pm. No injuries were reported but birds, butterflies, small mammals and other wildlife were at risk.

Barbecue warning after fire destroys part of UK nature reserve. (Photo: Google Maps) Barbecue warning after fire destroys part of UK nature reserve. (Photo: Google Maps)
Barbecue warning after fire destroys part of UK nature reserve. (Photo: Google Maps) | Google Maps

The fire started above the valley’s woodland on bracken-covered slopes which is home to one of the UK’s most threatened butterfly species, the pearl-bordered fritillary. The trust said it is also home to a nationally rare flowering plant called the toadflax-leaved St John’s wort.

Mr Hopkinson added that “thankfully” the fire was “spotted and extinguished by the quick action of emergency services” but “it can take many years for a site to recover and the loss of wildlife can be devastating.”

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service has not confirmed what caused the blaze, but as the weather forecast for June predicts warm sunny spells and little rain it has issued advice to the public to reduce the risk of fires, including summer barbecues.

The advice states:

  • Do not bring a barbecue
  • Extinguish cigarettes or matches and never throw them on the ground
  • Take litter home as it can start fires by reflecting the sun’s rays
  • Dial 999 immediately if you spot smoke or flames, and make sure you are safe

A large wildfire previously destroyed a third of Dorset Wildlife Trust’s Upton Heath nature reserve near Wareham in 2011 killing many rare plants and animals. It’s estimated that it can take up to ten years before habitats and wildlife are able to recover.

Dorset and Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service (DWFRS) has also issued a warning of an increased risk of wildfire over the bank holiday weekend as warm and dry conditions are forecast.

The fire service issued an amber alert for Dorset that it said would remain in place until at least 27 May and urged the public not to use disposable barbecues, avoid campfires and have picnics instead.

Related topics:

Comment Guidelines

National World encourages reader discussion on our stories. User feedback, insights and back-and-forth exchanges add a rich layer of context to reporting. Please review our Community Guidelines before commenting.