Berkshire

Swinley Forest fire: Two teenage boys bailed by police

Two teenagers arrested on suspicion of arson by police investigating a forest fire in Berkshire have been bailed.

Police held the boys, both 14, as part of the inquiry into the fire in Swinley Forest, but officers now say the arrests are "not necessarily linked".

About 200 personnel from seven county forces are continuing to tackle pockets of fires and dampen down hot-spots at Swinley Forest, near Ascot.

Evacuated families are also waiting for news on when they can return home.

One forest business, which has been forced to shut, said the fire could cost it more then £20,000 in bookings.

The fire, which is affecting about 300 hectares of forest close to the Devil's Highway near Bracknell, started on Monday.

'Heart-wrenching'

The two youths were arrested on suspicion of arson after firefighters said they saw a group of teenagers running away after setting fire to woodland on Tuesday evening.

But police said the location of the alleged arson is not clear from the evidence available and has not been linked definitively to the fires in Swinley Forest.

Image caption Simone Hutchinson and her husband Kelly do not know when they will be able to return home

Some nearby homes, which are made from wood, have been evacuated as it was feared they could be caught up in the fire.

Residents Kelly and Simone Hutchinson were given 10 minutes to leave their property, along with their two young sons, on Monday.

Mrs Hutchinson said: "We could see the smoke billowing over... it got worse and worse as the hours went on, then we were told to go.

"I panicked for seven of those 10 minutes and in the remaining three I packed photos and some kids' clothes which I left at home anyway."

Mr Hutchinson added: "To see my wife and mother, who lives with us, both in tears not knowing if they were going to come back to a home was heart-wrenching."

The family have been told unless there is considerable rain they will not be able to return home for the "foreseeable future".

Berkshire fire service said low winds and cool temperatures helped overnight but extra resources have been drafted in to aid the effort.

Nicole Targett, fire service spokeswoman, said: "Because the fire is underground it can pop up at any moment.

"The only thing that would help us out is torrential rainfall for about a week without stopping so we are trying to do that through our hoses.

"What we are having to do is use a super main and use a number of different sources including a lake at the military academy in Sandhurst.

"People are coping incredible well, it's probably a tradition amongst the emergency services to get on with the job.

"Yes they are exhausted, they are struggling through the undergrowth, their faces are black but they are still grinning and still cracking jokes."

The Met Office has forecast the area will have to wait until at least Saturday for rain.

'Working tirelessly'

A number of businesses in the area have been forced to close including the outdoor activity attraction Go Ape.

Grant Stevens, site manager, said about 700 bookings worth about £20,000 have been made for Saturday.

Image caption Firefighters have been praised for their efforts in tackling the fire

He added: "We're still waiting day-by-day to hear if we can get back in.

"Hopefully it will be for the weekend as we have about 700 people booked in.

"But I must say the firefighters have been working tirelessly."

It is not known how the earlier fires started and people have been warned to take care when discarding cigarettes.

The A3095 Crowthorne Road remains closed in both directions because of the fire, which has also affected the B3430 Nine Mile Ride between Crowthorne and the Coral Reef roundabout.

Conservationists said they are concerned about the impact of the fire on wildlife and plants.

The 2,600-acre (1,052-hectare) forest contains conifer pine trees that are managed as timber crop and the woodland is also part of a Special Protection Area (SPA) for three rare birds - Dartford warblers, woodlarks and nightjars.

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