PURBECK suffered three heath fires in a spate of suspected arson attacks over one day last week.

On Wednesday evening, firefighters from Swanage, Wareham, Bere Regis and Hamworthy battled a blaze which destroyed 247m by 22m of heathland on Dean Hill in Studland.

Wareham fire crews had already been called at 9.25am to Morden Road in Sandford where a small area of heathland was aflame, and then again to Worgret at 12.45pm to tackle 100 square metres of burning heather and gorse.

All three blazes are believed to be linked and to have been started deliberately.

Swanage station commander Phil Burridge said: “Wednesday was an unusual day with fire crews in the Purbecks attending three fires involving gorse and heath in one day.

“Experiencing heath fires in March is not unusual as the lighter evenings encourage more people outside.

“There is then a trend that the number of deliberately set fires on the heathland increases.”

Fire crews used a heavy off road pump, Unimog and off-road vehicles to extinguish the Studland blaze with two main lines, six hose reel jets and beaters.

Last year saw the service fighting a number of heath fires in the Wareham area which were believed to have been started deliberately.

On March 3 two-and-a-half hectares of Stoborough Heath was destroyed by a blaze, and the same area was ravaged again ten days later with a further two hectares set alight.

During the summer, large areas of heath and gorse were destroyed in a range of suspected arson attacks in Studland, Hamworthy, Canford Heath and Bourne Bottom.

“I cannot stress enough how important it is to take extra care when enjoying our heaths and open areas,” added Mr Burgess.

“If you are a smoker, extinguish them fully before disposing of them – never ever just throw them away lit, similar to throwing them out from car windows – the result could be 50 or 100 firefighters tackling the subsequent blaze.”

Mr Burridge urged the public to be vigilant and to report suspicious activity in the county’s open areas to Dorset Police via 101.

Alternatively, they can call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.