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Saturday, 23 August 2014

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Hunt is on to catch yobs who burned our jewel in the crown

The hunt is on for the arsonists who ravaged a unique West Cumbrian nature reserve.

Firefighters are now “99 per cent sure” that the blaze at Siddick Ponds in Workington on Tuesday was started deliberately.

But no arrests have been made and police have issued a fresh appeal for information to catch the culprits.

A £500 reward, put up by an anonymous donor, has also been offered for any information leading to an arrest.

The nature reserve has been hailed by many as West Cumbria’s jewel in the crown.

Kirsten Mawby, Allerdale council’s parks and open spaces officer, said: “Whoever did this will be facing not only charges of criminal damage but also environmental crime.”

More than 40 firefighters spent over three hours tackling the blaze that ripped through the site of special scientific interest.

It is thought that up to half of the nature reserve’s reed beds may have been lost.

The blaze, near Dunmail Park on Maryport Road, close to Northside, spread along the reed beds and gorse and up the hill towards Seaton.

It is estimated that almost 20 acres were affected.

Reports of the fire were received just before 7pm and firefighters spent three-and-a-half hours getting the blaze under control.

Flames up to eight feet high could be seen about a mile away, in Workington town centre.

Adrian Holme, station manager at Cockermouth, Keswick, Wigton and Workington fire stations, said at times they had to let it burn because it was too dangerous to tackle.

Firefighters had to pump water from the ponds nearest to the car park up to engines further up the cycle track as the blaze spread.

Eight engines from West Cumbria were called to the scene. The last crew left at about 10.40pm.

Mr Holme said: “We are highly unlikely to find any physical evidence but we are 99 per cent sure it was started deliberately.

“We are looking for information and it is very important that we identify those responsible.”

One onlooker said it was the worst thing he had ever seen.

Hundreds of people turned up to watch the fire, with staff from Dunmail Park watching from the roof and from the top of nearby gravel heaps.

Cumbria police said they were working with the fire service to establish the circumstances that led to the blaze.

A spokesman said: “Officers have carried out enquiries in the local community and are currently following a number of lines.

“Police will continue to work with colleagues in the fire and rescue service while they investigate, and police patrols will be stepped up across the area to gather information from the community and try to prevent any similar incidents from occurring.”

Crews were called back out to Siddick Ponds in Workington just before 7am on Wednesday to deal with another grass fire there.

Engines from Workington and Keswick were alerted to the fire and, while there, found a second blaze involving smouldering and burning tree roots.

The spokesman added: “We would like to appeal to anyone who was out walking the dog in the area or has seen anyone hanging around to come forward and contact the neighbourhood policing team.”

The Siddick Ponds blaze was the most serious in a spate of deliberate fires in West Cumbria, including one at Cleator Moor on Wednesday night.

Last week, there were more than 20 nuisance fires in West Cumbria, and over the weekend there were another 30 incidents across Allerdale and Copeland.

Anyone with information on the fire at Siddick Ponds is urged to contact the police on 101, or call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

Have your say

Yesterday 30/04/2013 as I walked by Siddick Pond I noticed young ducklings swimming on the pond. I also noticed new shoots of growth in the burnt reed beds. So it is not a dead loss.

Posted by a yeoman on 1 May 2013 at 12:53

Reading the four comments from Evil McBad, Syd, John and yeoman, it would seem you have all been able to look for the positives or in one case JOKE about it.
One of our areas of beauty, home to wide and varied species of wildlife, has been set alight at a crucial time of year. Absolutely beggars belief it does!

Posted by Shady on 19 April 2013 at 15:16

View all 8 comments on this article

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