FIRE destroyed around 80 acres of Chobham Common on Monday, in the biggest blaze on the heathland for at least 10 years.
Twenty six fire appliances were sent to tackle the flames, which were driven rapidly across the tinder dry national nature reserve by a strong wind.
The fire brigade was called by heathland wardens who found the common alight at about 11.30am. The incident was finally declared under control at 5.25pm and several fire crews stayed on the common overnight to ensure hot embers did not reignite.
Chobham Fire Station’s crew were the first to arrive at the blaze, followed by Land Rover and Unimog specialist heathland appliances from Camberley.
“The fire had started to the east of Tank Hill, near the Longcross Estate,” Chobham’s officer in charge, Jason Patrick, told the News & Mail.
“It was beginning to race across the common when we got to it. It was spreading rapidly, so I immediately radioed to ask for 10 fire engines and 12 Land Rovers to attend.”
“Within minutes, it had jumped the oil pipeline track across the common and was heading south towards Langshot Stables.”
Surrey Fire and Rescue Service also sent three more Unimog all-terrain vehicles. Appliances attending included a water tanker from Pangbourne in Berkshire and a Land Rover from Midhurst in West Sussex, along with fire engines from Hampshire and one from London.
“The fire was crossing some very difficult terrain and travelling up some steep slopes, which made it difficult to get to in places,” said Jason.
The fire service set up a control centre in the parking area of the Eastern and Oriental restaurant in Windsor Road, with ambulances crews standing by there in case firefighters were injured.
The volunteer Surrey Search and Rescue organisation sent several of its units to the incident. Its members sent up a camera-equipped drone to provide the fire service with aerial views of the burning common.
It is not yet known how the fire started but a Surrey Fire and Rescue spokesman said: “As with all fires the cause will be investigated.”
Surrey Wildlife Trust was assessing the extent of devastation regarding local wildlife – see the News & Mail 28 March for more details.