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Buddon Wood burns for three days - wildlife losses feared.

Loughborough Echo - 16th July 1976

Local firemen tackled their toughest job of the current dry spell to date over the weekend, as they battled to halt a forest fire which threatened to destroy Buddon Wood, Quorn, one of Leicestershire's most important wildlife sites.

After flaring up at about 2.45pm on Friday, the flames, fanned by a stiff breeze raced through the woodland, sending up a pall of smoke that could be seen over a wide area.

Working flat out in tangled undergrowth and bracken, 35 fireman succeeded within a few hours in containing the outbreak in a 25 acre stretch of hillside over looking Swithland Reservoir. Even though much of the wood was spared, local nature experts fear that the results of the blaze could be a disaster for wildlife. Buddon is considered to be a unique site in the county, being the habitat for a variety of plants, insects and spiders, some of them rare. Member of the Loughborough Naturalists' Club were planning to meet this week to map out the devastated section and assess the damage.

At the height of the fire, which is believed to have been caused by a carelessly discarded cigarette end, six fire appliances were at the scene, with crews drawn from Loughborough, Shepshed and Syston and from three Loughborough stations.

Using hose reels and beaters, the firemen worked until they were exhausted at the job of containing the flames and were relieved by fresh crews every few hours. The battle went on all through Saturday and Sunday and it was Monday afternoon before the fire, which smouldered on in tree trunks and the five-feet depth of peat on the woodland floor, was finally extinguished.

Two of the main problems facing the fire fighters were access to the site and supplies of water. The seat of the blaze was in a section of the wood which lies at the end of a narrow winding lane running alongside the reservoir. Land lines had to laid into Swithland Reservoir 400 metres away, and it was unfortunate that the drought had reduced the water level to a few shallow pools. Other water supplies were brought by water tenders in a shuttle service from a pool in the Redland Roadstone quarry on the other side of the wood. Fire crews working on the site were fed from the Brigade's mobile canteen.

The outbreak came at a time when dray weather was bringing up to 50 calls a day to grass fires for the Leicestershire Fire Service. On Friday, the day the Buddon fire started, firemen had to answer 36 other calls, 18 of them grass fires. Operations at Buddon were directed by Station Officer Len Cook and Assistant Divisional Officer Dick Barton, both of Loughborough, while county fire chief Mr Kenneth Lockyer also visited the scene.

Mr Cook said that the fire was easily the worst grass blaze seen in Leicestershire this year and admitted that dealing with that and the many other calls had put the county service under some pressure. The main object initially was to surround and contain the fire; than we had to get inside and tackle the inferno in the middle. "It wasn't an easy job but we have had plenty of practice at grass fires this year", he said.

Mr Cook renewed past appeals to the public to be extremely careful when picnicking or walking in the countryside, where tinder-dry vegetation can burst into flames very easily. He added: "We would like to express our thanks and appreciation for the held given in many ways by Redland Roadstone. They even loaned us a 2,500 gallon water bowser, complete with crew, to ferry water."

Buddon Wood, which belongs to the Earl of Lanesborough of Swithland Hall, and is leased to Redland, was last in the news in 1917, when local naturalists and preservationists fought a campaign to prevent quarrying of its estimated 100 million tons of valuable granite. The dispute went to Whitehall and permission was eventually given for quarrying to take place after safeguards and conditions had been imposed.

The wood has been hit by fire and clear felling in the past and naturalists were this week predicting that it could be many years before it recovers from the latest outbreak.

 Submitted on: 2011-10-17
 Submitted by: Kathryn Paterson
 Artefact ID: 1408
 Print: View artefact in printer-friendly page

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