Warning as 50 firefighters tackle woodland fire near Norwich

People visiting woodland and countryside areas during the warmer weather have been warned to exercise extreme caution after more than 50 firefighters tackled a blaze in the woods near Norwich.

A total of 13 fire engines, including crews from Reepham, Earlham, Sprowston, Norwich, Wroxham, Acle, Aylsham and water carriers from Fakenham and Hethersett, were called to a large section of woodland off Reepham Road at Felthorpe.

About 50 firefighters used hose reel jets and hand appliances to tackle the fire in the 200m by 200m of woodland which broke out just before 9.40am yesterday.

Fire crews returned to the area last night and were expected to do so again this morning to ensure that the fire, which is believed to have started accidentally, did not re-ignite.

Norwich Fire Station manager Phil Berry, who was in charge of yesterday's incident, said: 'We received a call to a fire in woodland and on arrival found ourselves to be confronted by quite a fast developing fire both in bracken and small trees.'

Mr Berry said the situation was worsened by the peaty ground – meaning the fire could burn down into the peat and go off elsewhere.

He said firefighters were forced to dig down into the ground to expose the fire and used high pressure jets to extinguish the flames. They then used thermal image cameras to detect where the fire had spread to before digging down again.

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He added: 'We had eight fire engines from around the county and two water carriers from Fakenham and Hethersett. We also had five relief crews come in which would have made a total of 13 fire engines.'

Sam Wade, a marshal at Combat Action Games paintball site, which is near to the affected woodland, said he saw the smoke from as he was driving to start work.

He said: 'I came through Lenwade and I could see the smoke from there.

'You just looked and there was this smoke, lots of it.'

The current warm spell is set to continue for a few days more at least and Mr Berry urged people to take extra care while out and about with it being so unusually dry meaning the risk of fire is that much greater.

He said: 'Usually it's quite green and as such quite wet so it would be quite hard for a fire to develop at this time of year in the way we saw yesterday.

'However, with this dry spell it's shown that there's a high risk of what starts out as a small fire getting quite big.'

Advice for staying safe during the current dry spell, includes not having a bonfire of any size during extremely dry periods, calling 999 to report even small fires before they spread and disposing of glass bottles carefully because they can magnify the sun's rays and set light to dry grass.

For more fire safety advice log onto www.norfolkfireservice.gov.uk/index.html

Have you seen something newsworthy while out and about in Norwich? Contact the newsdesk on 01603 772443 or email newsdesk@archant.co.uk