Surrey

Chobham Common fire 'devastating' for wildlife

The fire Image copyright Thames Basin Heaths Partnership
Image caption The fire was reported by local wildlife workers on Monday

A fire on the largest national nature reserve in the south-east of England has had a "devastating" effect on wildlife, a charity has warned.

The fire at Chobham Common in Surrey was discovered and reported by wildlife workers at about 11:30 GMT on Monday.

Sarah Bunce from the Thames Basin Heath Partnership said it was a crucial time for wildlife on the healthland.

"Reptiles will have come out of hibernation and birds are beginning to nest," she said.

"It's the timing that's so devastating."

Image copyright Lee Ridley
Image caption Chobham Common is home to rare ground-nesting birds

Ms Bunce said the common was home to all six native species of reptiles - adders, grass snakes, smooth snakes, common lizards, sand lizards and slow worms.

She said rare species of birds including nightjars nested on the ground in areas around Woking, Guildford and Camberley.

"A fire at this time of year can be very devastating."

A spokeswoman for the Thames Basin Heaths Partnership, a project focused on protecting the Thames Basin Heaths Special Protection Area, said it had been a "very sad day" for reptiles and invertebrates at the common.

The RSPB said more than 100 different species of birds had been recorded on the site including the Dartford warbler, hobby, buzzard, woodlark and woodcock.

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Media captionPlumes of smoke were seen rising from the common

At its height on Monday about 40 firefighters were tackling the blaze and crews remained damping down the scene on Tuesday.

Surrey Fire and Rescue Service said crews were continuing to monitor the area affected by the blaze.

A spokesperson said the cause of the fire was unknown but was not believed to be deliberate.

Image copyright Surrey Search & Rescue
Image caption Plumes of smoke rising from the fire could be seen from miles away

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