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Heathland fires hit all-time low with 27 incidents so far this year
THE number of Dorset heatland fires has fallen dramatically this year, the Daily Echo can reveal.
Experts say the drop - from 83 wildfires in 2011, to 27 so far this year - is thanks to the unusually wet summer and Dorset Fire and Rescue Service's continuing education work with young people.
Figures also show a 46 per cent decrease over the past five years in the number of arson attacks on the country's heaths.
The recent drop has saved tens of thousands of pounds and countless rare, protected species.
DFRS community safety officer Gaynor Mant told the Daily Echo: "Yes, the wet summer has been a factor for us this year, but if we hadn't have been doing all the safety education work we do, the numbers of heathland fires would be higher.
"I am a constant dripping tap giving the same messages - but it is working.
"Whether it is us, the police or the Urban Heaths Partnership, we will continue going into educational establishments talking about the dangers and the consequences of deliberate fires.
"We work on the masses and if we can get the message through to the majority then we can concentrate on the ones that have slipped through the net."
The stark cost of heathland fires was brought shockingly home, last summer, after arsonists targeted Poole's Upton Heath.
The ensuing wildfire decimated an area the size of 130 football pitches.
At its height, around 200 firefighters worked to stop a wall of flames almost three-quarters of a kilometre wide and 30ft high.
Homes were evacuated in Corfe Mullen and four firefighters needed medical treatment.
Mrs Mant said: "Even with all the educational programmes we have in place, it just takes one person to cause a major fire.
"This year the weather has definitely been a contributing factor but if we stopped the educational work we've been doing, I can guarantee the numbers would increase."