A FORMER Teignmouth man has been awarded a British Empire Medal in the New Year Honours List.

Mark Warn, 49, lives and works in Dorset as a wildlife ranger, and was the first to respond to a devastating fire in Wareham Forest.

He was brought up in Holcombe and Teignmouth and went to Hazeldown School, and then Teignmouth Community School.

Mr Warn, has been with Forestry England and its predecessors for more than 30 years, 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 years of experience.

He was a talented rugby player in his younger days, turning out for Wareham and Dorset and Wiltshire.

His mother Vivienne Hudson, and stepfather retired GP Ken Hudson, who live in Shaldon, said they were very proud of his award.and achievements.