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No barbecues or discarded cigarettes - fire safety warning to Thetford Forest visitors after large blaze damages historic trees

PUBLISHED: 16:49 26 May 2017 | UPDATED: 16:49 26 May 2017

Thetford Forest. Picture: SONYA DUNCAN

Thetford Forest. Picture: SONYA DUNCAN

Archant Norfolk Photographic © 2015

Tourists visiting Thetford Forest on dry, hot summer days have been warned to be vigiliant about fire risks such as barbecues and discarded cigarettes after a large blaze damaged part of the historic attraction.

Thetford Forest. Picture: SONYA DUNCANThetford Forest. Picture: SONYA DUNCAN

A group of 30-year-old trees will have to be cut down after they were damaged when the fire - which took 11 crews about six hours to extinguish - took hold of about 1,000sq m of undergrowth on Thursday, May 25.
Terry Jennings, operations manager at Thetford Forest, said the incident “could’ve been a lot worse” had it not been for the prompt actions of firefighters.
However he said it highlighted the need for people to take care during dry, hot summer days, when the risk of forest fires increases.

Although the cause of the blaze is uncertain, Mr Jennings believes: “Most fires aren’t caused by acts of god, they are usually caused by someone.

“We know that people generally don’t do it deliberately - people are just not being thoughtful sometimes.

“My message to people is to remain vigilant and be careful about what you do.”

Thetford Forest. Picture: SONYA DUNCANThetford Forest. Picture: SONYA DUNCAN

Two of the biggest risks, he explained, are discarded cigarette butts and barbecues.

He said people lighting disposable barbecues are “the bane our of life”. He urged them not to do it - and use the areas of the forest set aside especially for barbecues instead.

“We want people to enjoy the forest but just be careful, please,” he added.

Anne Mason, chairman of the Friends of Thetford Forest, said: “Because of the low rainfall and now high temperatures, the forest is exceptionally dry. Even a carelessly discarded cigarette butt can start a fire.

Thetford Forest. Picture: SONYA DUNCANThetford Forest. Picture: SONYA DUNCAN

“Everyone needs to be exceptionally vigilant. It takes years for a forest to recover from fire - it’s a lot of income for the Forestry Commission, because trees which go up in flames cannot grow and mature for the commission to sell.

“It’s not just damage to the wildlife and the forest but to long-term income.”

Paul Seaman, from Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service, said: “The public should remain vigilant as the lack of rain this year has meant that undergrowth is extremely dry.

“People visiting should follow Forestry Commission guidance.”

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