Firefighters will be getting on their bikes this summer to help prevent people from deliberately starting fires on Woodbury Common. Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service and partner agencies are re-launching the Project Hawkeye arson reduction scheme following a serious fire in the area last week.
More than 70 firefighters took five hours to extinguish the fire and 8.5 acres of heathland was destroyed in two separate locations either side of the A3052. A section of the road had to be closed and police and fire investigators believe the fire was started deliberately.
Group Manager Adge Tilke, of Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service, said: "The commons are very dry and are likely to remain a significant fire risk for the foreseeable future.
"The public are urged to take extra care at this time, especially regarding smoking materials, hot cooking devices and hot vehicle exhausts. Under current conditions a fire driven by the wind will grow quickly and move with sometimes frightening speed which can put members of the public at serious risk.
"Fires on the commons cause enormous damage, not only to the habitat for the many animals, plants and birds that live there but also destroy the natural beauty of the area."
The service has joined forces with the police, Clinton Devon Estates, Pebblebed Heaths Conservation Trust and the RSPB to actively monitor the commons during daytime hours and after dark to discourage would-be arsonists, and to gather evidence when necessary.
Firefighters from local stations will use mountain bikes for plain clothes patrols on the commons, and video cameras will be carried to record evidence when necessary.
The public are also urged to keep a vigilant eye for suspicious activity and to report any fire as soon as possible. The mountain bikes enable firefighters to cover large areas of the common very quickly and have proved to be very successful in the past.
PC Simon Evans said: "Officers from the Devon and Cornwall Police will be working alongside our colleagues from the fire service to assist in this operation. I would also urge the public to report any suspicious activity in or around the Common area. If anyone has any information regarding the recent fires then they should contact the police control room on 08452 777444, or contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111."
Posted: 10.23am, 27.05.11