Surrey

Pirbright fires: Rare sand lizards and smooth snakes killed

Pirbright heathland blaze Image copyright Ian Launchbury
Image caption Fire crews have been tackling the blaze since Wednesday

Conservationists have said it could take a decade for wildlife to return to heathland that was destroyed in a fire.

About two-thirds of the population of rare sand lizards and smooth snakes are thought to have been killed at Stoney Castle Ranges in Pirbright, Surrey.

Forty hectares were destroyed on Wednesday. The fire was brought under control but re-ignited on Saturday with more than 200 hectares affected.

Firefighters were still at the scene on Monday damping down.

A 33-year-old man from Ash Vale arrested on suspicion of arson has been released on bail until 30 May.

Image copyright NPAS Redhill
Image caption A pilot from NPAS Redhill captured this picture of the heathland blaze

Reptile conservationist Robin Bassett said: "Fatalities outnumber survivors by about two to one.

"We've been holding on to as many animals as possible, especially since Saturday when the fire flared up again... as soon as the fire service has completed their work we will put them back onto suitable habitat."

Mr Bassett said the heathland had been in "really good condition... but it's all gone back to like the year zero, been burnt down to the ground."

Image copyright Surrey Fire & Rescue Service
Image caption Firefighters will remain at the scene for several days

Surrey's assistant chief fire officer Steve Owen Hughes said fire crews had set up a six-mile area around Ash and Pirbright Commons to pump water and drench the undergrowth to prevent hotspots from re-igniting.

He said crews would remain at the scene for several days.

A number of roads remain closed in the area including Mytchett Place Road, Gapemouth Road, and Stanley Hill Grange Road.

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