Dartmoor vulnerable to extreme fire risk

Laura White
Laura White
© Mike Rego

By Mike Rego

A family day out of Dartmoor at the end of the school holidays ended in disaster for a family from Paignton when their car burst into flames near Postbridge on the afternoon of Tuesday, 20th April, at about 3.55pm.

Two fire engines attended the scene from Chagford and Yelverton. The car was completely destroyed, along with about 25 feet of mainly gorse edge atop a granite wall by the side of the road, but fortunately the fire was contained from spreading further by the prompt action of the Fire Service.

The family of five had been enjoying a day out on Dartmoor and were returning home to Paignton, when coming down the road from Merripit Hill towards Postbridge they noticed the engine getting hot with smoke appearing from under the bonnet. Quick-thinking Mum Terrie who was sitting in the front passenger seat explained: “We just bought the children out for a drive to the moors, we were coming down the hill and the engine started smoking, so my initial reaction was for us to pull over, get the kids out, and then it just went up.” Despite the disaster no-one was hurt, and as Terrie said, “Luckily we’re safe so that’s the main thing”.

Mark Shears, Watch Manager from Chagford Fire Station explained that fortunately the fire occurred off the main part of the open moor, which is “very, very dry at the moment”. Mark went on to explain that as the Fire and Rescue Service, they are putting out a lot of campaigns about camping stoves especially, as there are concerns that as many people are not going abroad for their holidays, they are going to come down to the West Country and camp out on Dartmoor. The campaign is about being safe and minimising the risk of an out-of-control wildfire in a remote location not easily accessed by the Fire Service, particularly as the moor is so dry at the moment.

Dartmoor Park Rangers have been warning that the dry weather combined with increasing visitor numbers due to easing of Covid-19 restrictions have created an “extreme fire risk”.

Prescient words, as fire broke out on Dartmoor on the evening of Tuesday, 27th April around 7.30pm near Jurston Cross, 4 miles southwest of Moretonhampstead close to the Postbridge to Moretonhampstead road, cause unknown, with a fire front of at least 200m in length. At least seven fire appliances attended, from Okehampton, Chagford, Torrington, Bovey Tracey and Exeter.

Fortunately the fire was close enough to the road to be easily accessed, and the low winds meant that the fire was brought under control and virtually out shortly before 10pm, limiting the extent of damage.

Local Life