Our reaction to Monday's fire at Bartinney Downs Nature Reserve

Bartinney Downs Nature Reserve Fire by David Eddy

Cornwall Wildlife Trust is deeply saddened to report that over 120 acres of land has been burned to the ground as a result of a major gorse fire at Bartinney Downs Nature Reserve.

Multiple fire brigades from the surrounding towns were notified at 7.40am on Monday 5th April and worked hard to fight the blaze, spread out over an area of approximately 200m wide, on two fronts.

Callum Deveney, Head of Nature Reserves at Cornwall Wildlife Trust, said: 'Controlled burns are an important way of managing heathlands, but they must be planned carefully and carried out at the right time of year. The fires that have burned at Bartinney Downs are nothing of the sort and couldn’t have come at a worse time, with the awakening of nature in spring and the arrival of newborn wildlife. Thankfully our costs to repair the damage look to be low but incidents such as these are a massive set back to our work and our ability to provide the best possible habitats for Cornwall’s wildlife.'

The fires that have burned at Bartinney Downs couldn’t have come at a worse time, with the awakening of nature in spring and the arrival of newborn wildlife.
Callum Deveney
Head of Nature Reserves at Cornwall Wildlife Trust

Fires such as the one witnessed last night are not only completely avoidable but cause instant, direct decline in local biodiversity. With just over two percent of the world’s lowland heathland, Cornwall’s heathland is vitally important on a worldwide scale. The heathlands of Bartinney Downs nature reserve in West Penwith supported an array of rare birds, mammals and insects. Although some would have been able to escape the fire, species such as voles and adders will have likely perished.

Cornwall Wildlife Trust has registered the incident with Devon and Cornwall Police and is continuing to assess the damage caused. On initial inspection, the site’s extensive and specialist fencing has been burned but fortunately the site’s vegetation management helped to slow and stop the fire from spreading. The fire is believed to have started on heathland adjacent to the reserve and rapidly grew due to strong winds.

Cornwall Wildlife Trust would like to thank members of the local community for alerting the fire to emergency services, as well as the fire brigades for their rapid response which has saved much of the nature reserve from destruction.

This is the second unexpected fire that has taken place on a Cornwall Wildlife Trust nature reserve this year. In February around a quarter of Rosenannon Downs Nature Reserve, equivalent to over 20 hectares, had been burned to the ground in a suspected act of arson. Thanks to donations made to an emergency appeal, Cornwall Wildlife Trust was able to carry out restoration work to assist nature’s recovery of the area.

Wildfires are one of several issues impacting Cornwall Wildlife Trust’s nature reserves. With lockdown restrictions easing and an increase in visitors to Cornwall’s reserves, the Trust would like to ask for everyone’s help in protecting and respecting the countryside and reporting any signs of disturbance or fire to the local authorities.