A FIRE service investigation into a second blaze at Wareham Forest has established the cause.

Yesterday's incident was found to be a flare-up from the huge fire that ravaged the forest three weeks ago.

That fire burned for ten days - destroying 200 hectares of wildlife habitats and placing significant pressure on emergency services.

Yesterday's fire was started by a tree trunk that continued to burn underground, making its way to the surface and fanned by the wind, causing a flare up.

It shows how the previous fire is continuing to wreak destruction.

Yesterday's blaze affected 1.25 hectares of heath and woodland - which means a total of 3.25 hectares has now been obliterated - taking with it wildlife and their habitats.

Firefighters continue to work and the scene, and the fire service has reiterated its plea for people not to have barbecues and camp fires - believed to be the cause of the earlier blaze.

A spokesperson for Dorset & Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service said: "An initial fire investigation has concluded that a fire which flared up within Wareham Forest yesterday is connected to the one which started three weeks ago.

"Firefighters have found evidence of deep subterranean burning deep within a tree trunk which made it to the surface and then was fanned by the wind.

"Crews were called to the scene at 12.20pm yesterday and found approximately 1.25 hectares alight. Twelve fire appliances, three water carriers, two Land Rover pumps and a Unimog were initially on site, with approximately 75 firefighters, although this has now been scaled back."

As of this morning, there were two fire appliances, two Land Rover pumps, a water carrier and a Unimog still in use at the scene , the fire service said, as crews continue to dampen down the area.

It is expected that this work will continue for at least the rest of the day, depending on weather conditions.

Firefighters will remain on site until all hotspots have been dealt with, while Forestry England staff are also on the scene supporting the firefighting operation.

Amid the tragic news there is some hope, however.

"Early indications are that the Site of Special Scientific Interest is unaffected at this time," the fire service spokesperson said.

"Local people are asked to stay away from the forest while crews continue to work. Sugar Hill Road has been closed for safety due to the number of fire appliance movements.

"We continue to ask local residents and visitors to the area to resist any activity that could lead to a fire starting."

The main dangers are:

• Deliberate fire setting

• Littering of items such as disposable barbecues and cigarettes

• Campfires and bonfires either being left unattended or getting out of control

• Sparks from machinery and vehicles

• Cars being parked on verges and the heat from their catalytic converters igniting the grass

The incident comes after grave warnings about extreme risk of wildfires.

In a further plea for people to protect habitats, the spokesman added: "PLEASE help us by not lighting fires, having barbecues in the open or doing anything that may set alight grass, foliage, heath or woodland."