Firefighters saved homes, Royal woodlands and a nature reserve today, as a blaze engulfed several acres of Norfolk heathland.
Police said the A149 had now re-opened, but temporary traffic lights were being used, as fire crews continued damping down at the scene of this afternoon’s blaze.
The fire happened at Dersingham Heath, on the edge of the Royal Estate. Flames tore across the tinder-dry heath after undergrowth caught light at around 2pm.
A crowd gathered to watch on the hill by the village sign, as firefighters from across Norfolk spread out across the heath with hoses and hand extinguishers.
They were forced to retreat as the fire quickly spread. Fanned by the breeze, the flames reached gorse and trees alongside the A149.
Police closed the road between the Ken Hill and Alderman Pratt roundabouts, as the road became enveloped by smoke.
Long tailbacks built up as drivers heading to and from the coast were diverted via Dersingham and Ingoldisthorpe, on what the AA predicted would be one of the busiest days of the year on Norfolk’s roads.
“You couldn’t think of a worse day for something like this to happen,” said one officer. Asked by a driver how far back the queues stretched, he shrugged: “Wisbech.”
By 4pm, there were 10 appliances and a bulk water tanker at the scene.
Efforts to fight the flames were hampered by boggy ground, which meant fire engines could not get close to the seat of the fire.
“Since it started, the wind’s got up,” said station manager John Burrows, from Fakenham.
“Police have closed the A149 due to the hazard from smoke drifting across.
“We’ll be here damping it down for a considerable period.”
By 5pm, the fire was under control. But traffic jams stretched north from Dersingham almost to Hunstanton.