AN ARSON investigation has been launched after two boys were spotted starting a fire on well-used heathland yesterday evening.

Five hectares of land on Yateley Common was alight yesterday afternoon, needing five fire crews to stop it.

It is the latest in a number of gorse fires across North Hampshire in recent months.

Basingstoke Gazette:

Police say that around lunchtime yesterday (Thursday), two boys were spotted setting fire to a bush on the Vigo Lane side of the Common.

When confronted by members of the public, the duo, described as being around 15-years-old, put out the fire.

However, later, Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service sent appliances to another blaze in a similar vicinity.

A Unimog, water carrier, land rover, two hose reels and a jet was needed to put out the flames, which damaged five hectares of land.

Now, officers have appealed for anyone with further information to get in touch.

Basingstoke Gazette:

A spokesperson said: "The boys we would like to speak to in connection with the incident are described as being aged around 15 years, both white.

"One is described as being tall and slim, with a pale complexion and wearing a white tracksuit top.

"The other is described as being noticeably shorter, with light or ginger hair and a ruddy complexion.

"We are appealing to anyone who saw anything suspicious to get in touch by calling 101 and quoting reference 44200171058."

Basingstoke Gazette:

It comes just weeks after a similar gorse fire destroyed 20 hectares of land at Hazeley Heath, near Hartley Wintney.

Firefighters were on site for hours damping down the area after the blaze, which destroyed reptiles and the nesting sites of birds.

And a week later, firefighters were again dealing with a fire in the open as two large areas were destroyed near Sydmonton.

Speaking to the Gazette, North Hampshire Group Commander Ryan Thurman said that he did not believe the fire was an accident.