A WILDLIFE ranger who was first to respond to the devastating Wareham Forest fire has been recognised in the New Year honours with a British Empire Medal for his prolonged service to forestry.

Mark Warn, 49, has been with Forestry England and its predecessors for more than 30 years as a Wildlife Ranger and is responsible for the wildlife management and conservation on the Wareham Beat in Dorset.

During that time, his commitment to the important wildlife habitats and local community has led to him becoming a recognised expert in lowland heathland conservation and a trusted facilitator. 

Mr Warn developed a long-standing volunteer programme that supports and builds on his own wildlife research and monitoring particularly for raptors and reptiles.

Most recently he has been applauded for his expertise and commitment dealing with the Wareham Forest fire in 2020, the largest in England for many years.

From his initial response and action to protect important areas with fire breaks and co-ordinating sand lizard rescue, to planning and starting the area’s recovery, his skill and local knowledge is unrivalled.

He was first to respond and selflessly spent 18 consecutive days on the fire site advising and supporting the fire service, often for 16 hours a day.

His intimate knowledge of the forest, built from years of practical experience, directed action to save priority areas, with teams cutting fire breaks and providing the Incident Commander with vital information on the most valuable habitat areas to protect.

He also continued to inspire and direct the volunteer effort to rescue reptiles from the fire site and move them to safety.

His focus turned immediately to how to recover and redesign the forest. This vision will make it more resilient into the future and again allow people and wildlife to continue to enjoy the area.

He is now a leading expert in the management of the nation’s rare lowland heath/forest habitats, an expertise he has built through his own research and monitoring of wildlife.

Mr Warn said: “It was a complete surprise to open the notification letter, which left me feeling both incredibly proud but at the same time with a sense of sheer disbelief.

"As with anything we do in life its very much a team effort, and I must thank my friends and colleagues for their continued help and guidance over the years. My most sincere thanks of all go to my beloved wife Tara, without her support and understanding there is no way that I could fulfill my passion for the vocation that I love so much.

"I consider myself incredibly privileged to help to manage the most bio-diverse, and in my opinion most beautiful corner of the UK. I have always endeavoured to improve the habitats we manage, and in turn maximise the sustainable benefits to its wildlife, and all the people that visit and value this special place.”