“Everyone at BCP Council is truly devastated over the fire that destroyed 16.7 hectares of Canford Heath on Saturday. The timing of the incident is incredibly upsetting due to our nesting birds, and other species that were using the heathland to welcome new life into the world. Volunteers and BCP rangers are continuing to look for emerging reptiles as well as record the deceased. A total of 23 dead animals have been logged so far, including sand lizards and smooth snakes, two of the rarest reptiles we are lucky enough to have here in the UK and have spent years cultivating here in Poole.

“The fire exposed a lot of litter which our staff and volunteers from the local community are helping to clear.

“We’d like to thank our partners, Dorset and Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service, Dorset Police, the 8 BCP colleagues that attended and of course any volunteers that helped sweep the area following the fire. A huge thanks to all our partner organisations that are offering continued support and the members of the public that offered refreshments for those dealing with the incident on the night. On behalf of the council and our residents, we are incredibly grateful. The passion for your work, your community and the local environment is clear and should be an inspiration to all of us across Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole.

“This incident is utterly tragic and most likely could have been totally avoided. Although the start of the fire remains unknown, the fire service have suggested intentionality as a potential cause and it is a stark reminder of how important it is to be cautious. Barbecues are NOT to be used on our heathlands and reckless behaviour will not be tolerated.

“Those that were evacuated are now back in their homes that were protected by the defendable lines around property perimeters. We will continue to support those that have been affected by the fire and urge people to reach out to us if they require any assistance or further support. With no rain forecast over the coming days, BCP staff will remain on high alert.

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