Firefighters tackling fifth Dartford Heath blaze warn of toxins and fumes 'for days to come'

  • Video report from ITV News Meridian's Kit Bradshaw

Firefighters have spent the day dampening down Dartford Heath, after a fire ripped through 10 hectares of undergrowth. 

The blaze started on Saturday, 13 August, and is the fifth to be reported at the beauty spot in recent weeks.

Videos posted on social media showed large plumes of thick black smoke rising into the sky.

Kent Fire and Rescue Service sent ten engines to the scene initially, with four crews remaining there on Sunday to dampen down remaining hotspots.

No casualties were reported but large areas of heathland were left scorched and blackened.

Firefighters were seen using an aerial drone and thermal imaging equipment in their efforts to prevent further outbreaks. 

Sam Brennan, a volunteer at the Friends of Dartford Heath group, described the latest blaze as “heartbreaking” after all the work to make the surroundings a thriving habitat for wildlife. 

Mr Brennan said: “There’s a large volunteer group that has helped throughout the years to make this place lovely and you can have one fire like this that can just burn through a year’s worth of work. 

“It’s quite heartbreaking and some of the volunteers have said they won’t do it anymore because all of the hard work they put in is destroyed.”

Four fire crews spent Sunday dampening down hotspots across a large part of Dartford Heath.

No casualties were reported and the cause of the fire is not known. 

A fire service spokesperson said: “Firefighters are reminding people to ensure you avoid the heath today wherever possible, including if you are walking a dog.

“Although some of the ground looks charred, the heat beneath is still extremely hot and can cause harm to people and animals.”

Richard Dell, who has lived next to Dartford Heath for 30 years, said they regularly experience fires in the summer but this year has been particularly bad.

Mr Dell added: “We are used to the smell, I know you shouldn’t get used to it, but we are now. But it’s getting closer and closer and I’m quite worried, with the dryness of the trees and the grass, [that] it’s going to get too close to the houses.”

Local residents had initially been told to keep doors and windows closed, but this advice was rescinded after several hours.

But the fire service spokesman added: “There will also be remaining toxins and fumes present for some days to come which can be bad for the health of people and animals.”

In July, the A2 had to be closed to traffic while emergency services responded to another fire on Dartford Heath.