Operation Heathlands

Firefighting on Studland Heath

We’re supporting Operation Heathlands, an initiative to raise awareness of fire, vandalism, anti-social behaviour and to protect the heathland through a series of educational programmes and prevention activity in schools, the community and on heathlands.

Operation Heathlands is led by the Dorset-based Urban Heath Partnership and runs until 2 September.

“Arson is the biggest threat to the heathland and both deliberate and accidental fires can destroy whole colonies of wildlife” said Gaynor Mant, Dorset & Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service Deliberate Fire-setting & Arson Reduction Coordinator.

“We are advising visitors to the heath to be especially mindful of discarded cigarettes and to not use disposable barbecues when visiting.”

If you see a fire or anti-social behaviour being committed on a heathland, get to safety and contact the emergency services by calling 999.


Paul Attwell, the Urban Heaths Partnership manager, said: “Fires on heathlands can have devastating effects on the wildlife and vegetation as they can take up to 25 years to recover. In the right conditions, these fires are capable of traveling as fast as an Olympic sprinter.”

Dorset heaths are home to all six native reptiles: smooth snake, grass snake, adder, sand lizard, common lizard and slow worm – and for some of these, our heaths are the only remaining natural habitat in the UK.

The Urban Heaths Partnership is also working with partner organisations to tackle issues including: 

  • Anti-social unauthorised use of vehicles on land
  • Damage to fences and gates
  • Anti-social behaviour
  • Trampling of rare plants and animals
  • Erosion of vegetation and sandy heathland soil
  • Disturbance of ground-nesting birds such as nightjars and woodlarks
  • Dog fouling
  • Fly-tipping of rubbish and garden refuse
  • Predation of rare animals by domestic pets

For more information on the Urban Heaths Partnership, call 01202 642787, email urbanheaths@dorsetcc.gov.uk or visit the Community Heath Watch page on Facebook.