Firefighters battle major blaze in Surrey beauty spot with smoke visible at Heathrow

24 July 2022, 16:53 | Updated: 24 July 2022, 23:03

Wildfire on Hankley Common

By Daisy Stephens

A major incident was declared in Surrey as firefighters battle an open fire at a popular beauty spot, with the smoke visible at Heathrow Airport.

Listen to this article

Loading audio...

The fire service said on Twitter the eight-hectare blaze on Hankley Common was producing a "great deal of smoke".

It urged people to avoid the area and said locals should keep their doors and windows shut, and not let pets outside.

Videos on social media showed black smoke billowing above the common, where grass and trees were alight.

The major incident has since been stood down but the fire is still burning, and people are still being told to avoid the area.

The cause of the fire is not yet known
The cause of the fire is not yet known. Picture: Twitter @ianlumb

There are some reports the smoke is visible as far away as Heathrow, Hounslow and the South Downs.

Surrey Fire & Rescue Service (SFRS) said on Twitter: "The major incident at #HankleyCommon is carrying high volumes of smoke across a large area of the county. If you see smoke in the air in the west of the county it is likely to be from this incident. Please be aware that some local roads are closed."

Around eight hectares of grassland is alight
Around eight hectares of grassland is alight. Picture: Twitter @AlanJohnson1959

Flying instructor Jordan Bridge said the blaze was one of the largest he has seen in the area.

The 24-year-old, from Alton in Hampshire, said that at around lunchtime he saw "huge smoke clouds building to the east of Lasham Airfield" where he works.

"After take-off I could see that the fire was covering a wide area with the smoke extending downwind over Guildford and Woking towards London," he said.

"Obviously (I was) concerned for all involved in the local area given the already stretched resources of local fire services.

"I have seen wildfires before whilst flying but this was certainly one of the largest I've seen in the many years I've been in Surrey/Hampshire."

Read more: Move over, Dover: Folkestone becomes centre of 'holiday hell' amid huge Eurotunnel queues

Read more: Man shot dead at gathering in east London named as 28-year-old local

The fire brigade said 19 vehicles were in attendance and said the fire covered eight hectares.

"We have declared a major incident at Hankley Common due to a large fire in the open," wrote SFRS on Twitter.

"We have several fire engines in attendance.

"There is a great deal of smoke so please avoid the area, windows and doors should be closed if nearby and pets kept indoors."

The smoke is visible from miles away
The smoke is visible from miles away. Picture: Twitter @MarkSmithSurrey

Later, it posted an update reading: "We were called to the fire just after midday today & currently have 19 vehicles in attendance, including support from @HantsIOW_fire & @WestSussexFire. Vehicles include fire engines, specialist units and 4x4s.

"At least eight hectares are estimated to be affected."

It then said: "Some local roads are closed & we’re asking people to avoid the area.

"Crews are expected to remain on scene at least until tomorrow.

"At this time the cause is unknown. Please help keep our outdoors safe: pack a picnic instead of a disposable bbq & dispose of cigarettes correctly".

Surrey Police officers said they are assisting their fire service colleagues and that Thursley Road which runs alongside the common has been closed.

The common was used for filming for part of the James Bond film Skyfall.

The fire is on Hankley Common in Surrey, but the smoke can be seen for miles around
The fire is on Hankley Common in Surrey, but the smoke can be seen for miles around. Picture: Google Maps

Firefighters are also tackling multiple weather-related blazes across London and have appealed to people to cancel all planned barbecues in a bid to prevent further outbreaks.

London Fire Brigade (LFB) said it was dealing with significant incidents in Enfield, Hayes and Thamesmead, although the Enfield fire has since been brought under control.

The fire service said it had dealt with more incidents on Sunday than it normally would in a 24-hour period.

Appealing to the public for help, LFB urged people to cancel all planned barbecues, remove rubbish, especially glass, from grassland and dispose of cigarettes properly.

The service tweeted: "London Fire Brigade is dealing with a number of weather related fires across the capital. We're tackling significant incidents in #Enfield, #Hayes and #Thamesmead. Between midnight and 1700 we've attended more incidents than we would in a normal 24 hour period.

"Please help us prevent further fires by cancelling all planned BBQs, removing rubbish especially glass from grassland & disposing cigarettes correctly. Our firefighters & control officers are doing a fantastic job in challenging conditions. Your co-operation will help us greatly."

Temperatures across the south-east of England reached 29C on Sunday, according to the Met Office.

The UK has been experiencing a heatwave with a record-breaking high of 40.3C, in Coningsby, Lincolnshire, on Tuesday.