WILDLIFE experts have issued a plea to people to heed fire safety warnings after the hot remnants of a fire were discovered on the edge of the Trust’s Green Lane Wood nature reserve near Trowbridge.

The discovery on Tuesday (July) was reported to the police and has sparked fears for the ancient woodland and surrounding properties, which could have suffered devastation in the tinder dry conditions, had the burnt area not been spotted and quenched with water.

Whilst last week’s searing heat has gone for now, the drought has not, so fire risk in the countryside remains very high, says the Wiltshire Wildlife Trust.

Green Lane Wood Warden, Matt Callaway, arrived at a clearing less than 50 metres from the ancient woodland on Tuesday morning to find a large area of burnt grass, which was still very hot to touch.

Swift action was needed to avoid the fire becoming reignited and, in a stroke of luck, Matt had access to water on his vehicle, which was used to thoroughly dampen the burnt area.

Mr Callaway said: “There were no signs of a BBQ, but it is likely it was that from the conditions of the previous evening. The burnt grass is now approximately 10m x 3m wide, so a significant area under a 90+ year-old oak tree. Having BBQs outdoors at the moment is such a risk and is not permitted on the Trust’s nature reserves.”

His discovery comes the same week that firefighters tackled another fire in an open residential area of Trowbridge, highlighting the need to take extra care.

“In peak drought conditions, a campfire or a discarded cigarette can ignite a flame, and wildfires can spread very rapidly when fanned by high winds, endangering the lives of visitors and residents in the area,” he said.

The 40.46-hectare ancient oak woodland at Green Lane is home to a wealth of wildlife, including birds such as jays, the silver-washed fritillary butterfly and the rare Bechstein’s bat.

Nature reserves across the county have experienced extremely hot, dry conditions, so it is vital that people heed fire safety warnings to protect Wiltshire’s precious flora and fauna.

A number of fires have broken out across Wiltshire and many other counties in recent weeks, causing devastation to wildlife and habitats.

If any members of the public have further information, they can contact the Trust at comms@wiltshirewildlife.org or report directly to Wiltshire Police on 101 under reference number 54220078842.