'˜Huge blow' as dunes fire devastates wildlife in St Annes

A wildfire that destroyed one third of a Fylde coast nature reserve has had a 'devastating' effect on wildlife.

Monday, 2nd July 2018, 8:10 am
Updated Wednesday, 4th July 2018, 6:15 pm
Large fire at the dunes in St Annes. Photo: @elliotscarwash
Large fire at the dunes in St Annes. Photo: @elliotscarwash

The blaze broke out on the sand dunes in St Annes​ on Saturday​ afternoon, sending thick smoke blowing along the seafront and over roads.

-->READ MORE: Devastation after major blaze in sand dunes at nature reserveAround 30 per cent of the nature reserve, which provides a habitat for a range of wildlife, was destroyed before firefighters brought the blaze under control.

And Alan Wright, communications manager for The Wildlife Trust for Lancashire, Manchester and North Merseyside which helps Fylde Council manage the reserve, said: “The fire service have done a brilliant job in containing damage.

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Large fire at the dunes in St Annes. Photo: @elliotscarwash

“They have probably saved a lot of our local wildlife. We are very grateful.”

“However it is devastating because this is an important area for some rare plants and wildlife.

“It is particularly upsetting at this time of year as birds are still nesting in that area. We also have lizards, toads and newts that would struggle to flee a fire.

“We will also have concerns about plants like marram grass, they bind the dunes together providing a protective barrier from the sea. They protect the wildlife and local homes.”

Picture: Lancashire Fire and Rescue

“We have done some amazing work on the dunes, with Fylde Council. This may take years to return it back.”

Five fire crews were despatched to the area on Saturday afternoon as an area measuring about 100m by 50m was ablaze.

Police closed Clifton Drive North in both directions and appealed for people to stay away from the area.

A neighbouring rest home was readied for evacuation as a precaution.

The number 7 and number 11 buses were diverted via Highbury road, Kilnhouse Lane, Queensway and Squires Gate Lane.

Crew manager Darren Bowers said: “The fire damaged around 25 to 30 per cent of the area, but it could have been a lot worse. The crews did well to stop it.”

He said the nearby New Thursby nursing home was potentially affected by the thick smoke.

Ambulance crews set up emergency incident support in case residents needed any treatment or to be evacuated.

The cause of the fire is not known and police are now investigating.​

The site was designated Lancashire’s first ever ‘Local Nature Reserve’ in 1968 and is also designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) for its interesting and unique plant communities.

The blaze was the second in a matter of hours on the Fylde coast, after a blaze on Lytham Green that was caused by a barbecue blowing over.

A crew used a hosereel to damp down burning grass.

Wesham crew manager Fraser Smith tweeted: “Very lucky nobody got hurt. No BBQ on the Green.”

Fire chiefs have urged the public to not leave bottles or glass behind as sunlight shining through glass can start a fire.

Members of the public have also been asked to put out cigarettes, matches and barbecues before disposal​.

Crew manager Bowers said: “Please take extra care. These dry conditions are rife for a fire to start.”

Fylde Council leader Coun Susan Fazackerley said she was aware of the incident but had not yet seen the damage. She said: “It is a big blow that some it has been damaged but hopefully there will be enough left for wildlife to move to.”