Wildfires Scorch Britain; Winnie-the-Pooh Woods Hit

(CN) — In the midst of a record-setting warm February, wildfires broke out in Great Britain and partially burned a forest in southern England made famous in the Winnie-the-Pooh children’s classics.

The unusual wildfires are adding to worries that Britain is suffering from the effects of climate change. Last summer Britain and other parts of Northern Europe were struck by a severe heat wave and drought that sparked major wildfires and caused widespread crop damage.

Britain, typically wet and chilly in February, is dry and warm today.

On Tuesday, firefighters battled blazes in Ashdown Forest, the setting for the “Hundred Acre Wood” in the Winnie-the-Pooh books by A.A. Milne. The whimsical adventures at the heart of the Winnie-the-Pooh stories take place in the woods.

The Independent newspaper said two fires started there in the afternoon and burned about 90 acres.

The West Sussex Fire & Rescue Service blamed the unusual warm weather and dry conditions for causing the fires. The Independent reported that the fire remained under investigation.

By Wednesday, firefighters were seeking to rein in a massive fire on the Saddleworth Moor in West Yorkshire. Under an “Apocalyptic” headline, the BBC reported that one fire commander called it “one of the biggest moorland fires we’ve ever had to deal with.”

In Scotland the BBC reported that a big gorse fire erupted on Arthur’s Seat, a hill inside the Holyrood Park near Edinburgh. A large gorse fire also was reported in the mountains near Dublin, Ireland.

Britain is experiencing some of the warmest days on record for February, with highs in the 60s in much of the nation – making it feel more like June than February during the warmest parts of the day. January and February also have been unusually dry.

Climate change has been blamed on making Britain and other parts of Northern Europe warmer. Last summer the drought was so severe that the contours of ancient buildings, including possible Roman ruins and prehistoric structures, that were previously unknown and hidden by grasses, were unveiled to pilots and drones.

Britain’s weather agency, the Met Office, issued a report in December saying heat waves will become much more likely in Britain due to climate change. Britain’s last summer was one of the warmest since records began in 1910.

The fire in the Ashdown Forest is causing the most grief due to its links to Winnie-the-Pooh and his imaginary friends – Christopher Robin, Owl, Piglet, Roo and Eeyore. Milne, the Winnie-the-Pooh creator, lived close to the woods and loved spending time there.

The forest, which consists of heath and ash, pine and hazel trees, is close to London and is carefully protected and preserved.

(Courthouse News reporter Cain Burdeau is based in the European Union.)

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