Firefighters are on standby today to dampen down the embers after fire left a large part of Croham Hurst charred and blackened.
Three fire engines attended the Site of Special Scientific Interest for most of yesterday, as a bush fire broke out in the tinder-dry bracken and heather at the top of the South Croydon beauty spot.
The fire occurred following the driest June since records began, and despite appeals and warning throughout the preceding week from the London Fire Brigade, local councillors… and even Inside Croydon.
In the north of England, around Manchester and Bolton, with flames in a blaze on Saddleworth Moor sometimes reaching eight foot high, the Army had to be called in together with an RAF Chinook helicopter to help the local brigade stop the fire spreading out of control and reaching built-up areas.
Though now under control, with the flames fuelled by the moor’s peaty soil, it won’t be until there’s some sustained rainfall that the firefighters will no longer have to be on standby, and there is no rain forecast for days yet.
The cause of the Croham Hurst fire is not known with any certainty, but may have started with something as small as a discarded cigarette, or possibly from use of a barbecue in the public open space.
“Devastating,” was the reaction to the fire damage from Maria Gatland, the councillor for South Croydon ward. According to Gatland, there was no sign of any fire burning this morning, but the fire had extended from the high point of Croham Hurst and down the slope leading down to Upper Selsdon Road.
“How can people be so irresponsible in such dry weather?” Gatland asked yesterday after the first plumes of smoke were spotted from houses along Croham Hurst Road.
“Can’t get message through to some young people that smoking and setting fires in the undergrowth can have terrible consequences in these conditions.”
The councillor and residents all had praise for the local firefighters, who had already been called out a week earlier to deal with previous, smaller scale fire.
Croham Hurst comprises more than 80 acres and is classified as biological Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and a Site of Metropolitan Importance for Nature Conservation. It is also a Regionally Important Geological Site.
Paul Waddell, a local resident, said, “This is gutting. Some beautiful and important wild flowers were around there. Thanks to London Fire Brigade Croydon for their hard work.”
The damage to Croham Hurst is likely to prompt calls for bans on barbecues being lit in Croydon’s public open spaces.
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