Huge Aylesbeare Common blaze ‘suspicious’

Acres of scrub and woodland affected

FIREFIGHTERS from Sidmouth and Ottery were among the first on the scene when a two blazes gripped a beauty spot on the outskirts of Newton Poppleford on Monday evening.

The fires that wrecked eight-and-a-half acres of scrub and woodland at Aylesbeare and Hawkerland Commons could have been started deliberately.

Six-feet-high flames burned in separate areas on opposite sides of the A3052- as hazardous, heavy smoke left the busy road shut for two hours. Around 60 firefighters with 12 pumps tackled the flames.

“We could see both seats of fire as we came from Newton Poppleford hill,” said sector commander Rob Crisp.

Both pumps from Sidmouth rushed to the scene at around 6pm.

“We knew what we were expecting. It was very windy, but at no time was the fire out of control,” added Mr Crisp. “With two fires, 100 metres apart on opposite sides of the road, the cause certainly seemed suspicious.

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“The road was closed for a short period because of heavy smoke.”

Town firefighters spent hours at the scene tackling the Aylesbeare Common blaze and returned later in the evening, and again on Tuesday morning, to dampen down hot spots.

“We had to continuously soak the ground as fire often travels underground in these incidents,” said Mr Crisp, who issued a plea to commons users to take extra care.

He urged users not to discard lit cigarette butts or light fires and said: “Please be aware the gorse and our commons are tinder dry.”

Arson reduction manager George Setter added: “These blazes put the lives of the public and crews at risk, and also keep firefighters from attending other emergencies.

“They also scar the beautiful landscape and damage fragile wildlife habitats.”