A BLADE of grass caught light on a camping stove causing a huge blaze which destroyed 16 acres of the forest famed as the home of Winnie the Pooh.

The fire ripped through the Ashdown Forest on Saturday killing wildlife and around 40 firefighters spent nearly eight hours getting the blaze under control.

The equivalent of six hectares of woodland – the setting of the Hundred Acre Wood where AA Milne's children's character lived - is now desolate, blackened and burnt in its biggest fire of the year so far.

The flames swept through the area two years to the day that 20 acres of the forest was destroyed in a fire near the A22.

Forest ranger Michael Payne said a “tremendous amount” of wildlife died this weekend.

He said: “Reptiles, insects, butterflies and ground-nesting birds will undoubtedly have died.”

Mr Payne spent all day on Saturday at the scene of the fire - first thought to have damaged around 12 acres - but his inspection yesterday, using a GPS measuring tool, confirmed 16 acres had been affected.

He said the area will start to re-grow quite quickly, within the next two months, but will take ten years to be fully restored.

He said: “A man decided to cook his lunch with a camping stove on a bridle path and a blade of grass caught light and blew off into the gorse. The ignition was nigh on simultaneous and he couldn't contain it. We were using fire beaters and the fire was just bouncing back.”

Lighting a barbecue, camping stove or open flame is against forest by-laws, but Mr Payne could not confirm if the so far unknown culprit would face a penalty.

Crews from Crowborough, Uckfield, Wadhurst and Heathfield, began tackling the flames at around 1.30pm.

At least six other East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service landrovers were called in to help from Lewes, Seaford, Crowborough, Wadhurst, Uckfield, Horsham and Haywards Heath.

Water was shuttled across the heathland from the Crow and Gate pub at Poundgate and the blaze was under control by 6pm.

Inspections were carried out later that evening and the fire was deemed to be completely extinguished by 9pm.

East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service said 66,000 acres of grassland are destroyed by fire every year in the UK, putting a substantial strain on resources.

A spokesman urged visitors to avoid using open fires in the countryside and to make sure they are fully extinguished before disposing of them responsibly.


TWO years ago on Saturday, fire ripped through 20 acres of the Ashdown Forest.

Firefighters from 23 fire stations spanning East Sussex, West Sussex and Kent fought the giant blaze at Ashdown Forest on June 6, 2013.

The first of several 999 calls to the service was received at 1.57pm to deal with the serious fire just off the A22, north of Wych Cross by the Long Car Park.

A total of 16 fire engines attended and ten 4x4s were used alongside a water carrier and two incident command units.

A police helicopter also attended to give an aerial view of the fire two years ago.