On Monday 4th July, a major fire took hold at the historic home of British shooting, Bisley Ranges. The fire was spotted out in the ‘range danger area’ behind the backstop of one of the ranges. The scrub in the unused area of the ranges burned for some time with shooting matches and competitions having to be cancelled across the site.
Bisley Ranges, the UK’s National Shooting Centre, was established in 1890 and has hosted the UK’s National Rifle Association’s Annual Rifle Meetings ever since. On Monday, the NRAUK’s Secretary General Andrew Mercer shared a statement on the organisation’s Facebook page:
“A major fire was spotted in the range danger area at around 8.00pm Monday 4th July. Fire crews were quickly in attendance but their efforts were hampered by lack of safe access. Overnight the fire front expanded rapidly but was contained in an area behind Stickledown stop butt. We took the opportunity, assisted by a crack team of enthusiastic volunteers, to move over 200 target frames into a safer area in front of Stickledown stop butt.
Today the fire, driven by a strong wind, has intensified and grown, spreading onto Stickledown range floor, behind Century and Melville ranges, and skirting Cottesloe Heath.
Our staff are working tirelessly to move vulnerable assets and protect key resources, alongside a fantastic team of professional fire brigade personnel. We face another long night dealing with the fire.
We have shut the ranges tomorrow, Wednesday 6th July, to allow us to reset and assess what we need to do to deliver the forthcoming Imperial competitions. There will be some changes, but we will deliver the best competitions possible with the resources available.”
Numerous matches were cancelled during the week but with the McQueen competition and Sporting Rifle Imperials scheduled to begin next weekend, it was announced they would be delayed until Monday 11th July.
With the fire out an update was shared on Thursday 7th July, on the repair efforts underway:
The massive operation to get Stickledown Range in working order began with the team in the Stickledown butts early this morning.
They have cleared the fire-damaged number boards and begun moving 150 large pieces of timber that will be the support posts for the new target numbers.
On Friday the NRA UK shared an update on competition scheduling, confirming the range will reopen on the 11th July:
Following discussions with MoD Pirbright and the fire service I can confirm that all Bisley rifle ranges will re-open on Monday 11 July.
The ranges largely escaped fire damage; replacements for the cremated Stickledown target number boards have already been delivered and will be installed by Sunday.
– The Schools Meeting will start as planned on Monday 11 July;
– Non-Imperial Match rifle competitions are being scheduled Monday 11 to Wednesday 13 July; further details will be emailed to MR competitors; and
– Non-Imperial F class competitions are being considered Monday 11 to Wednesday 13 July; further details will be emailed to F class competitors.
– Sporting Rifle events due to take place on Saturday 9 and Sunday 10 July have been cancelled. The remaining Sporting Rifle Programme will continue from Thursday 14 July
All other Imperial Meeting competitions will run as scheduled.
Please note that although much of the range danger area is burnt out the risk of fire stoppages remains.
The cause of the fire has not yet been stated but its rapid spread was said to be due to strong winds whipping the fire up and burning the scrub in the area.