On Saturday 30th May, a wildfire broke out at Thursley Common, a
20-hectare nature reserve less than four miles (as the crow flies) from CRT’s Pierrepont Farm in Surrey.

Local farmers, farmer Peter Goble of PJ Goble and Partners and his family, along with Tom Francis, James Cooper, Ben Marshall of D Pride  & Partners and CRT's Mike Clear of Pierrepont Farm joined forces with firefighters from Surrey, West Sussex and New Forest, working through the night to help extinguish the flames.

Peter Goble’s daughter, Lucy Brooks said: “We only did what I'm sure others would do if they had the equipment and knowledge to use it. There were so many people that wanted to help, we just had the opportunity and machinery to do it safely.”

It has been estimated that the combined efforts of local farmers and the emergency services saved a further 100 hectares of the common land being devastated.

As local residents were evacuated due to the severity of the blaze, the farmers used their vital knowledge of the terrain and equipment to assist putting out the flames.

The ferocity and unpredictability of the fire was heightened by changeable winds and extremely dry conditions. The farmers used specialist equipment to cut bushes – a technique known as flailing – to create firebreaks and help prevent the spread of the flames.

The farmers’ tractors were also a vital resource in helping fire-crews deal with the boggy terrain. As well as rescuing one emergency vehicle that had become trapped, they were able to pull 9000L slurry tankers carrying water across the difficult ground to where the emergency services needed it.

CRT Farmer Mike Clear said “we do not get paid to do this, but I would do it again at the drop of the hat to save local wildlife habitats on our doorstep.”

Early summer is an important time of year for breeding birds in heathland habitats, many of them with young on the nest or who have only just fledged.

In a harrowing video released on Surrey Wildlife Trust’s Facebook Page, Ben Habgood, Surrey Wildlife Trust Conservation Manager, recorded distress calls of Dartford warblers as the farmers can be seen working tirelessly to save their threatened habitat.

Fire crews have patrolled the area since the fire was extinguished on Sunday night looking for hotspots that may cause the fire to reignite.

In a statement released by Surrey Fire and Rescue Service, Dan Quinn, Deputy Chief Fire Officer said: “Our firefighters, control staff and partners have worked tremendously in response to this incident.

“May 2020 became the sunniest calendar month on record and while that brings good news during a period of difficulty, it also highlights another safety warning. Areas will be dryer than usual, and we would urge residents to do everything they can to help us prevent wildfires in Surrey.”

“It was heart-breaking to watch and know that we couldn’t save everything,” added Lucy Brooks, “but the important thing is that everyone is reflecting on the past few day’s events, with a hope that lessons can be learned for the future.”

We are keen to highlight the bravery and resilience of these farmers in their efforts to help put out the fire. The cause is yet to be determined, but we are joining the farmers and emergency services in asking members of the public to take their rubbish home, not to use disposable BBQs or create camp fires, and to ensure any smoking materials are fully extinguished. Though, fortunately, no farmland was affected, the fire has destroyed precious habitats for local wildlife.

Find out more about Pierrepont Farm