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Fire crews tackle huge blaze at Cumbrian nature reserve

More than 40 firefighters spent over three hours last night tackling a blaze that ripped through a Cumbrian nature reserve.

And crews were called back out to Siddick Ponds in Workington just before 7am today to deal with another grass fire there.

Engines from Workington and Keswick were alerted to this morning's fire and while there found a second blaze involving smouldering and burning tree roots.

Fears have been raised that up to one-third of the nature reserve may have been lost in last night's fire.

The blaze, near to the Asda superstore, close to Northside, spread along the reed beds and gorse and up the hill towards Seaton. It is estimated about eight hectares (almost 20 acres) were affected.

Reports of the fire - believed to have been started by arsonists - were received just before 7pm and firefighters spent three-and-a-half hours getting the blaze under control.

Flames up to eight feet high could be seen about a mile away, in Workington town centre.

At times, said Adrian Holme, station manager at Cockermouth, Keswick, Wigton and Workington fire stations, they had to let it burn because it was too dangerous to tackle.

Firefighters had to pump water from the ponds nearest to the superstore's car park up to fire engines further up the cycle track as the blaze spread.

There were two fire engines in the Asda car park, near to Edgars car garage and a policeman stopping people from getting near the blaze.

Eight appliances from across west Cumbria were called to scene. The last crew left at about 10.40pm.

One onlooker said it was the worst thing he had ever seen.

Hundreds of people turned up to watch the fire, with staff from the nearby Dunmail Park shopping centre watching from the roof and from the top of nearby gravel heaps.

In addition to the ponds blaze, fire crews last night dealt with

  • a grass fire in Salterbeck - 5m of bushes at the rear of Garth Infant School, Coronation Drive - at 5.50pm
  • a 15m grass and gorse fire on the railway embankment in Maryport at 6.09pm
  • a 50 sq m grass fire at New Mill, Gosforth, at 6.13pm. It is believed this was caused by a discarded cigarette.
  • a 5 sq m grass fire at the back of Wastwater Avenue, Workington, at 10.33pm

Mr Holme reiterated his earlier appeal for people to stop setting fires.

After more than 20 nuisance fires in the west of the county last week there were around 30 more incidents across Allerdale and Copeland over the weekend.

Siddick Ponds is a site of special scientific interest and home to more than 158 recorded species of wildfowl, including the booming bittern. The popular reserve is also home to otters, rare spiders, weasels and butterflies.

More photos on the News & Star Facebook page

APRIL 10 UPDATE, 4.30pm: Cumbria police say they are working with the fire service to try and establish the circumstances that led to the blaze.

"Officers have carried out enquiries in the local community and are currently following a number of lines of enquiry to establish whether the fire was lit deliberately.

"Police will continue to work with colleagues in the Fire and Rescue Service while they investigate and police patrols will be stepped up across the area to gather information from the community and try and prevent any similar incidents from occurring," they say.

Have your say

why doesn't the council put up a reward for for info on the person(s) who set fire to the pond etc?

Posted by malc on 27 April 2013 at 13:47

Yesterday someone set fire to the underside of the new bridge causing smoke damage to both the sandstone and underside next to the reds ground. Its difficult to find words to truly comment on this latest example if wanton vandalism....

Posted by disappointedoldbird on 17 April 2013 at 22:00

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