Graham Kewley from Dorset & Wiltshire Fire and Rescue service
Investigators suspect 'human intervention' is to blame for the largest fire in years at Canford Heath nature reserve, as Dorset Police have issued a call for witnesses and dashcam footage.
Sergeant Fern Graham, of the Poole Neighbourhood Policing Team, said: “This fire has caused damage to a significant area of heathland and we are continuing to liaise with the fire service to establish the cause, which remains undetermined at this time.“I would urge anyone who was in the Canford Heath area on the afternoon of Saturday 23 April 2022 and has any information as to how the fire might have started to please make contact with us.
"I would also like to hear from anyone who may have captured footage on dashcams or mobile phones that might assist our investigation."
Crews from Dorset & Wiltshire worked overnight to control the huge fire on the outskirts of Poole.
The blaze, which affected a heathland nature reserve, started at 17:54pm on Saturday evening. Operators at Red Watch control went on took 168 calls about the incident.
Firefighters from Hampshire were also called to assist.
At it's height there were 15 fire engines on the scene, including 4 water carriers and 6 off-road 4x4s.
36 crews and 12 officers from Dorset and Hampshire helped put out the blaze.
Ferndown Fire Station in Ringwood reported that the blaze was probably the "largest fire in this location for a number of years", and was driven by strong winds in the area.
The area of heathland affected measures approximately 500m x 500m. The fire began at the Francis Avenue end of the heath, moving west and south by the wind towards Canford Heath Road, Culiford Crescent and Marchwood Avenue.
The blaze caused water supply issues in the Canford Heath area, with affected customers asked to contact Wessex Water directly.
The public were asked to avoid the area, and roads were closed at fire and rescue teams tackled the flames.
Dorset Police were also called to assist, opening Ashdown Leisure Centre as a local evacuation centre for those unable to get to their homes. 20 properties in the area of Marshwood Avenue, Culliford Crescent and Pilsdon Drive were evacuated as a precaution.
By 10:30pm Dorset & Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service announced that the fire was surrounded and under control, though some road closure remained in place.
Crews remained on the scene overnight checking for hotspots.
It was a busy day for Dorset & Wiltshire fire service, as they tackled a separate heath fire at Lodmoor Country Park in Weymouth.
The park is a 350 acre nature reserve, raising concern about the threat to local birds and wildlife.