FIREFIGHTERS responding to an emergency call were delayed by "chaotic" parking in the New Forest.

A crew from Lyndhurst fire station was on its way to a heathland blaze at Bolton's Bench when they were confronted by cars parked in a narrow road and a vehicle blocking an emergency access gate.

Drivers had to move their cars to enable the crew to reach the blaze at Fox Hill.

New Forest Post:

Lyndhurst is one of the most popular parts of the Forest and has seen a huge number of visitors since the government decided to ease the lockdown.

The Bolton's Bench incident was witnessed by Penny Wade, of Hythe, who said people were using the road as a car park because the official ones were full.

She added: "The fire engine wasn't able to reach the gate because of the chaos caused by cars parked everywhere - it was ridiculous. Drivers had to manoeuvre out of the way to let the firefighters through.

"I don't know how long they were delayed but in any emergency time is of the essence."

The incident has highlighted the problem of people hampering the emergency services by blocking gates, parking in front of fire stations and leaving narrow residential roads cluttered with vehicles.

New Forest Post:

Hampshire's deputy chief fire officer, Steve Apter, said: "The issue is worse than ever.

“Some drivers are parking opposite one another, making entire roads inaccessible, while others are actually stopping by fire station exits, often in the hatched areas."

Referring to the delays caused by bad parking he added: "When tackling a fire, or cutting someone out of a car, this can be the difference between life and death.”

A Forestry England spokesperson added: "A fire engine was blocked from attending a fire on the forest by a car parked across an access gate.

"At a time when the risk of wildfires is extremely high, it's essential the emergency services can get on to the forest to prevent fires getting out of hand.

"To understand how real the risk of wildfire is we only have to look at the recent incident at Wareham Forest.

"A wildfire likely to have been started by disposable BBQs has been burning for almost two weeks and has destroyed 220 hectares off forest.

"That’s the equivalent of 310 football pitches, all destroyed in a matter of days by carelessness.

"Preventing fires from starting in precious outdoor spaces such as the New Forest requires everyone to play their part.

"We 'd like to remind anyone coming to the Forest that parking is strictly limited to the official car parks.

"If a spot is too busy they should be prepared to go to another location or visit on another occasion."