Woolwich Common fire: Major blaze wrecks neglected open space

Woolwich Common
Residents have long complained about the neglect of Woolwich Common

Fire crews are damping down this evening after a major fire destroyed a large area of Woolwich Common, leading to road closures and a plume of smoke that could be seen for miles around.

Grass and shrubland the size of four football pitches towards the south of the common was alight at the height of the blaze, when 125 firefighters were tacking the incident. It was the second fire on the common in a week.

Land near the old Royal Military Academy on the east side of the common was still smouldering at 9.30pm this evening.

The fire brigade was called at 3.51pm, with the blaze brought under control at 8.06pm. Crews from across east and south London attended, with engines from as far away as Homerton and Shadwell seen at the scene.

London Fire Brigade said earlier this evening that 70 firefighters remain in place, and will be there for some hours yet making the area safe.

“Firefighters are using water jets and fire beaters to ensure this fire is out. We will be here for a number of hours damping the area down to ensure it can’t smoulder in the undergrowth and reignite.

“At the height of the fire large plumes of smoke were drifting across the area near to a hospital grounds and local roads. Firefighters worked extremely quickly is very difficult conditions on one of the hottest days of the year.

“London is tinder dry at the moment and a stray cigarette or even a glass bottle is enough to set a fire like this one. I can’t stress how important it is for smokers to really ensure cigarette butts and matches are out properly and never leave barbecues unattended.”

Woolwich Common
Woolwich Common
Woolwich Common
Woolwich Common fire

The common is controlled by the Ministry of Defence, which still uses it for military exercises, and residents have long complained about what they see the neglect of the open space.

Debris left behind by travellers who occupied part of the common in early June is still strewn across the land close to where the fire spread, six weeks after they departed.

Woolwich Common was used as a venue for the 2012 Olympics, which led the King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery – whose barracks are just off the common – to use Charlton Park for its exercises. However, delays in restoring the common led to this temporary arrangement lasting for some years.

Comments are open below if you’d like to share your experiences of the fire or the management of the common.

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4 thoughts on “Woolwich Common fire: Major blaze wrecks neglected open space

  1. greatreformact July 24, 2018 / 06:50

    Indeed, the army are a law unto themselves never responding to the concerns of the local community. I’m not sure how common land, which belongs to the commoners, that is, us, has ended up being under the control of the military, but their treatment of it is disgraceful.
    Is there any way the Council can put pressure on them to take responsibility?
    And, inter alia, to mend the wall along Hill Reach which has been smashed and left crumbling with ugly barriers in front, for months now.

  2. Sarah Smith July 24, 2018 / 08:16

    I reported the mounds of rubbish left by the travellers 5 weeks ago and was assured it would be viewed as a priority for removing. Really disappointed in the council that this has not taken place. I would agree that it seems crazy the army has responsibility for the Common and it needs to come under council control with a plan of how to repair the damage the fire has done. Perhaps part of the area could become an ‘incredible edible’ site with the planting of fruit trees and raspberry / blackberry bushes and strawberries and a herb garden. They would all grow with minimum input needed and it would make for a very pleasant area to walk in again.

  3. mrrunningbear July 24, 2018 / 19:11

    What have our elected representatives done to put pressure on the MoD to manage Woolwich Common properly? Liaising with other public bodies is part of the Council’s role surely, even if the Common is not their direct responsibility.

    I know that some of them like Gary Parker read this blog. It would be good to get a response.

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