'Massive' fire then a flood tackled in quick succession at nature reserve

The scene of the fire at Carlton Marshes in Lowestoft on Wednesday evening.

The scene of the fire at Carlton Marshes in Lowestoft on Wednesday evening. - Credit: Matt Gooch

Officials at a popular nature reserve were forced to tackle a fire and then a flood in the space of a few hours.

Rail services between Suffolk and Norfolk had to be cancelled on Wednesday afternoon as firefighters tackled a blaze near to the tracks on a field in Carlton Colville, Lowestoft.

The scene of the fire at Carlton Marshes in Lowestoft on Wednesday evening.

The scene of the fire at Carlton Marshes in Lowestoft on Wednesday evening. - Credit: Matt Gooch

The fire affected a large area of grassland at Carlton Marshes Nature Reserve in Lowestoft, which is managed by the Suffolk Wildlife Trust.

For the North East Suffolk team at the county's nature charity, it was the latest blow - after a spate of anti-social behaviour and vandalism at the popular nature reserve over the past month.

Matt Gooch, the North East sites manager at Suffolk Wildlife Trust, said: "Basically we were just going over the grassland to stop the spread of ragwort, when we believe the tractor hit the top of a flint that caused a little spark - and that was it."

Firefighters on Burnt Hill Lane, Carlton Colville on Wednesday afternoon.

Firefighters on Burnt Hill Lane, Carlton Colville on Wednesday afternoon. - Credit: Andy Lloyd

The team member called 999, and the fire crews were at the scene of the field fire near Burnt Hill Lane within two minutes.

Firefighters on Burnt Hill Lane, Carlton Colville on Wednesday afternoon.

Firefighters on Burnt Hill Lane, Carlton Colville on Wednesday afternoon. - Credit: Andy Lloyd

With crews from across Norfolk and Suffolk attending, a brigade spokesman said: "Five acres of grassland, hedgerow and rail embankment were well alight."

The delayed train as the blaze is tackled at Carlton Marshes on Wednesday afternoon.

The delayed train as the blaze is tackled at Carlton Marshes on Wednesday afternoon. - Credit: Andy Lloyd

It led to services being disrupted "due to the fire next to the track" between Beccles and Oulton Broad South.

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Mr Gooch said: "As it was quite windy the spark blazed across the field in a matter of minutes - it was a massive fire on dry grassland, but it could've been a lot, lot worse.

Firefighters tackling the blaze at Carlton Marshes on Wednesday afternoon.

Firefighters tackling the blaze at Carlton Marshes on Wednesday afternoon. - Credit: Andy Lloyd

"There were about 25 firefighters here and thanks to their hard work there was minimal damage.

"It was a tremendous response from them to get it under control.

"The railway line acted as a buffer and stopped it spreading across the reserve, to residential properties and wildlife.

"The petrol station on Beccles Road stopped serving fuel due to the associated risks."

With firefighters spending about four hours at the scene tackling the blaze, the grassland was left burnt and there was some damage to fences.

The callout came after Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service had declared its first major incident in years on Tuesday, after they were called to dozens of incidents, many of which were fires in the open.

Flash flood

Then at about 8pm on Wednesday, a sudden downpour and thunderstorm meant the back of the visitor centre at Carlton Marshes became waterlogged as the ground was so dry.

The flash flood at Carlton Marshes, Lowestoft.

The flash flood at Carlton Marshes, Lowestoft. - Credit: Matt Gooch

Mr Gooch said: "The downpour in the evening, well we could have done with Noah's Ark as literally our visitor centre at Carlton Marshes pretty much just flooded.

"Due to the dry ground after the heatwave, the ground wasn't able to absorb the water - so it ran all the way to the centre, and it could've been worse had it not been for the quick thinking of the staff.

"The doorways kept the water back and fortunately it did not get inside the building."