Corporation of London update on Wanstead flats fire

Councillors received the following update about the fire on Wanstead Flats. I’ve posted it on Facebook, but wanted to share it here as well so that as many people can see it as possible. I am sure lots of you share my feelings of sadness at the extent of the fire, and gratefulness for all the work of the fire service, the police and others, and a renewed sense of appreciation and affection for this enormous green space we are lucky enough to have access to.

‘I am pleased to report that the status of the Fire Incident at Wanstead Flats has been downgraded from a Major Protracted Incident to an Incident under Control.

The fire has burned at three locations:
• the triangle of land between Lakehouse and Centre Roads on the west of the Flats down as far as the events area and Jubilee Pond (designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest)
• land east of Centre Road as far as ‘The Dell’ adjacent to Aldersbrook Road
• the centre of the Flats behind the Aldersbrook Road sports pavilion

The first 2 burn sites comprise 40 acres, rather than the 90-100 acres mentioned in the press.  The third site has not been mapped due to a fire exclusion zone.

The London Fire Brigade; Metropolitan Police Service; Transport for London and the City of London Corporation has been working closely from Command Unit 3 at Blake Hall Road since the outbreak of the fire on Sunday afternoon.

From the height of the fire which was attended by 50 tenders and 225 firefighters LFB attendance at the Flats has been progressively scaled back.

Today work across day 3 has centred on cooling down remaining ‘hotspots’ and extinguishing small fires that are still burning in SSSI.

Last night’s ‘fire watch’ of 8 tenders was upgraded to 12 tenders during day 3.

Further helicopter overflights this morning with thermal imagery cameras has confirmed that hotspots continue to ‘burn’ beneath soil on the SSSI site and immediately north of the Model Flying Club site.

The City Corporation contract partner G Matthews & Son has provided a subsoiler and power harrow to break the baked surface of the soil pan that has prevented effective dampening down by LFB hoses.  The machinery has broken the soil pan down to 10 inches, with the power harrow providing restoring levels with a fine tilth.   The cultivated surface has dramatically improved infiltration by water from hoses and bowsers.  The key fire sites have been effectively ‘moated’ to prevent the further spread of fire.

The LFB has declared at 14.00 hours today that the fire sites east of Centre Road are now free from fire and provided certification to allow the City to take back control of the land.

With emergency consent provided by Natural England for Operations Likely to Damage Site (OLDS) an Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) which form much of the west flank of the Flats, two limited interventions where undertaken to cool down two hotspots on the SSSI site between Lakehouse and Centre Roads.  Birdwatching volunteers have reported that skylarks and meadow pipits continue to sing in territories close to the burn sites.

The Environment Agency have also been on site to confirm that no potentially polluted run-off from the fire-fighting had found its way into Alexandra Lake & Jubilee Pond.

A further afternoon helicopter overflight has confirmed marked reduction in hotspot temperatures.

Alexandra Lake has been filled from hydrants to act as a reservoir to feed the temporary surface water ring main surrounding the Flats which has supplied the fire tenders.  The ring main is now being dismantled and the Lake is being filled overnight courtesy of Thames Water above previously low levels.

Aldersbrook and Lake House Roads are being reopened to traffic this evening.

This has been a fantastic and highly professional response by LFB and METPol to a major incident.  The cause of the fire is unknown and is being investigated by the LFB investigation unit supported by METPol.

The next  Tactical Coordinating Group meeting is tomorrow morning and we hope that the remaining fire site can be handed back at 12 noon.

Epping Forest’s Twitter feed has regular updates.
Paul Thomson
Superintendent of Epping Forest
City of London Corporation, Open Spaces – Epping Forest’

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