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Surrey wildfire enters fourth day with 120 acres of nature reserve already burnt
27 July 2022, 14:10
A wildfire in Surrey has entered its fourth day after over 120 acres of grassland has already been burnt - an area twice the size of London's St James's Park.
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Surrey Fire & Rescue Service (SFRS) declared a major incident on Sunday as the blaze tore through Hankley Common.
It has since been downgraded, but on Wednesday SFRS said there are still eight fire engines on the scene and firefighting activities were continuing.
A helicopter is also being used to dampen down parts of the area that are used for military training and so are littered with unexploded military devices, making them unsafe for firefighters.
In an update shortly before midday, the fire brigade wrote: "Our operations are ongoing, with eight vehicles in attendance, including a command unit.
"We also have two officers at the scene."
A SFRS spokesperson told LBC a helicopter was being used to dampen land that is unsafe for firefighters to enter due to "unexploded military ordnance".
"Surrey Fire and Rescue Service's ongoing efforts have been to monitor the site and dampen hot spots," the spokesperson added.
"Even when the flames are under control, hot spots can cause the fire to reignite."
The spokesperson said local residents who had been evacuated had since returned to their homes but said the public were still being urged to avoid the whole 560-hectare nature reserve.
A helicopter has been used today to mitigate the spread of the fire in areas which may present a risk to firefighter safety.— Surrey Fire & Rescue Service (@SurreyFRS) July 27, 2022
Water for this has been collected from Frensham Pond.
We will share more details on the operation later today.#HankleyCommon
The blaze started on Sunday, when high temperatures and weeks of dry conditions ignited grassland across London and the south east.
A haze of smoke was sent as far as Heathrow Airport, with residents of Hounslow and the South Downs also reporting they could smell it.
To begin the fire service said it was affecting eight hectares of land.
But it has since said around 50 hectares are affected - more than double the entirety of London's St James's Park.
Videos on social media on Sunday showed black smoke billowing above the common, which is a popular filming destination and was used for the James Bond film Skyfall.
The cause of the fire is not known, but the fire brigade has pleaded with people not to have barbecues or start bonfires.
Group Commander Aaron Spencer said: "Whilst we are not yet sure of the cause of the fire we all have to play our part, so please be wildfire aware.
"Don't start bonfires, pack a picnic and not a barbecue, and dispose of cigarettes and waste safely.
"As we are now in the summer holidays we would also like to encourage parents to speak to their children and young people about outdoor safety."