Dorset

Dorset heath fire 'biggest since 1976'

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Media captionSteve Davis of Dorset Wildlife Trust describes the blaze

About 200 firefighters have been tackling the largest heath fire in Dorset in 35 years, which put several homes at risk.

Strong winds caused the fire, on about one sq km (247 acres) of Upton Heath, Poole, to spread rapidly.

Homes were evacuated as crews tackled the fire from behind the properties. It has now been brought under control.

Four people were treated after breathing in smoke and one firefighter was taken to hospital with exhaustion.

Another firefighter suffered minor burns to his arm, during what the fire service said was Dorset's biggest heath fire since 1976.

Image caption Members of the public are being told to stay away from the heath

Crews in 30 engines, 11 Land Rovers and other support vehicles were called to the heath at about 1400 BST.

Homes in Beacon Road and Kingcup Close were among those evacuated. Properties in nearby Long Meadow Lane were also under threat at the height of the blaze.

Investigations into the cause of the fire are ongoing but the fire service suggested it could have been started maliciously.

Two young people, believed to be teenagers, were seen fleeing from the scene by a member of the public.

Olivia Graves, 12, was evacuated from her home in Kingcup Close with her mother and sister.

'Thick orange smoke'

She said: "Police came and said we all had to leave.

"There was thick orange smoke everywhere.

"When you breathed it in you could definitely feel it. The sky was orange and there were times when it went grey, white as well."

Her family has since been allowed to return home.

Dorset Fire and Rescue Service is urging members of the public to stay away from the heath. About 20 to 25 firefighters will remain at the scene overnight.

More crews are due to return in the morning to dampen down the area.

Image caption Nearby homes were evacuated

Earlier, residents were warned to leave their property if smoke or fire entered their back garden.

Area Commander Keith Bacon had said: "This is a very serious fire and we would encourage anyone in properties surrounding the heath to leave their property if smoke or fire enters their back garden.

"Four members of the public have been treated by ambulance staff at the scene for smoke inhalation.

"Unfortunately one firefighter has gone to hospital as a precautionary measure because he was suffering from extreme exhaustion, another firefighter has received medical attention due to minor burns to his arm."

Smoke from the fire could be seen for miles around and at one point was blowing across parts of the A35.

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