Berkshire

Fire keeps Swinley Forest closed over the weekend

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Media captionThe blaze has ripped through Swinley Forest

Swinley Forest in Berkshire will remain closed off over the weekend as crews continue to battle the fires there.

They have been burning in woodland near Ascot and Bracknell since Monday as dry peat burns underground but the fire service said they were now contained.

Up to 300 firefighters from seven county forces have been using hoses to dampen down "hot spots" more than 300 hectares (740 acres).

Fire chiefs have said it is the largest blaze in the county's history.

They said it exceeded the scale of the 1992 Windsor Castle fire in terms of resources deployed.

Meanwhile, residents and workers evacuated from nearby houses and businesses have been told they may be allowed back this weekend, since the fires are now considered under control.

However small fire keep breaking out across the forest and people have been told to stay away from the area over the weekend.

Forest attractions, such as the outdoor activity attraction Go Ape, will remain shut.

Image caption Fires have been burning underground and flaring up in gusty winds

The fire service said torrential rainfall was needed for about a week "without stopping" for the fire to be put out.

The Met Office has forecast wet weather for the area over the weekend, but warned significant rainfall was unlikely.

Olaf Baars, deputy chief fire officer, said: "In the middle of the afternoon we're probably approaching 300 personnel on the ground and that effort is going to be sustained through [Saturday], with the possibility of reducing that effort on Sunday.

"And when we do eventually leave here, the fire will not be completely extinguished. We will be handing it over to the Forestry Commission and the Crown Estate with some smouldering, but in areas that have isolated from any other fuel, which will be allowed to burn out.

"If we were to try and extinguish it completely we'll be here all summer."

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