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Fire Service launches #BeMoorAware campaign after string of devastating wildfires

West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service (WYFRS) has today launched a hard-hitting campaign to prevent moorland fires this summer – after a series of blazes in the first half of 2019.

There have been 11 large moorland fires in the last six months across West Yorkshire, causing devastation to wildlife and posing a potential threat to life and property.

The moorland fires have also required a huge fire service resource to tackle.

As the school summer holidays start, WYFRS is joining with partners to urge the public to be vigilant and follow some basic rules to enjoy the beautiful moorlands without creating a fire threat to their future.

Firefighters and local dignitaries were among those who attended the launch of the campaign on Ilkley Moor – which saw a huge 7m x 9m banner unveiled down the ‘cow’ rock at the famous ‘cow and calf’ site on the moorland.

WYFRS Area Manager, Chris Kirby, said: “This year has seen some huge moorland fires across West Yorkshire and it’s crucial the public get behind this campaign to ensure this trend doesn’t continue.

“Some of the fires have been deliberate, which we utterly condemn – but most have been accidental and simply due to people being careless when out and about. As our campaign highlights – just one family barbecue can start a fire which destroys hundreds of hectares of beautiful moorland.”

WYFRS is supporting Bradford, Kirklees and Calderdale councils with their new public space protection orders (PSPOs) which ban barbeques, fires and things like sky lanterns on moorland.

Chris added: “We don’t want to ruin anyone’s fun but we do want to make people aware of the serious consequences that a barbecue or a dropped cigarette can have, especially in tinder dry conditions.

“A fire can spread so quickly, once it’s caught there’s little you can do to stop it and before you know it there’s a catastrophic blaze with far reaching consequences. This not only impacts on local moorland and wildlife, but affects local businesses, especially if roads need to be closed for health and safety reasons.

“Please help us spread this simple message – Be Moor Aware!”

This year WYFRS attended a moorland fire (in Marsden) as early as February (26th) which is unprecedented for the time of year.

At its height, more than 35 firefighters were in attendance and part of the A62 was closed as a precaution.

Following this, 10 more large fires have taken place – the largest fire service response saw 23 fire engines called to Ilkley Moor on April 20th.

This level of resource required can mean we have to call in support from other fire a rescue services.  There are arrangements in place for us to support other services in their time of need and we also receive support when we are dealing with emergencies that stretch our resources.  But we would prefer not to be in a position to have to request help from other parts of the country.  The best way to do this is to raise the profile of this campaign and prevent moorland fires starting in the first place.

Moorland safety advice –

  • Clear up and take your rubbish home after picnics
  • Observe all signs and notices – they are there for a reason
  • Follow the National Trust Countryside Code
  • Don’t leave glass bottles – not only can they hurt people and animals, but they can magnify the sun’s rays and start a fire
  • Never be tempted to light a fire in the countryside – including barbeques.
  • Never throw lighted cigarette ends onto the ground or out of the window of vehicles or trains. Always ensure that they are completely extinguished and disposed of responsibly.

Partners in the campaign are the National Trust, Yorkshire Water, United Utilities, and Bradford, Calderdale and Kirklees councils as well as Crimestoppers.

Craig Best, National Trust Countryside and Partnership Manager, said:

“Marsden Moor has been devastated by a series of fires this year, and yet fire could happen again unless we all do more to reduce that risk. We’re hugely grateful to the support of WYFRS and fully support their work to highlight the risk fire can pose to this special landscape; home to many rare nesting birds and mammals including mountain hares. We want people to continue enjoying their time on the moor, but please, hear the message of this appeal and help us to look after the countryside.”

Alastair Harvey, Recreation Advisor at Yorkshire Water, said:

“Wildfires can have a devastating effect on wildlife and they can also cause water colour problems. Wildfires cause water catchment land to dry out, which increases peat sediment getting into reservoirs. It is vital we contain the impact of wildfires and we at Yorkshire Water fully endorse this campaign.”

Peter Gill, Estates Manager at United Utilities, said:

“Moorland fires are devastating and the moorland surrounding our reservoirs is the first line of defence for our drinking water. Fire damaged land cannot perform its job properly as a filter and it can even lead to pollution entering the water. It can take years for the vegetation and peat to recover, and that puts additional strain on our water treatment processes.  That’s why we must all play our part to prevent fires.”

Councillor Rob Walker, Kirklees Council’s Cabinet Member for Culture and Environment, said:

“We’re blessed with a great amount of beautiful, thriving moorland in Kirklees and we must do what we can to protect it. We’ve seen in recent years how fire can have a devastating impact on our countryside but it also causes a genuine threat to human life.”

Cllr Susan Press, Calderdale Council’s Cabinet Member for Public Services and Communities, said:

“We’re backing this campaign as it’s vital to protect Calderdale’s distinctive countryside and other parts of West Yorkshire. We have recently introduced a Public Spaces Protection Order, which is in place all year round, to prevent moorland fires – a key ambition during the first 100 days of our new Cabinet.

“We’ll continue to work with our partners, including West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service, West Yorkshire Police and landowners to warn people of the dangers of fires, and to urge them to enjoy our beautiful moorland responsibly. Everyone has a part to play to ensure our landscape remains a core part of what makes us so special.”

Councillor Alex Ross-Shaw, Bradford Council’s Executive Member for Regeneration, Planning and Transport, said:

“Wildfires on our beautiful moorland areas have such a devastating impact, not just to the immediate environment and wildlife, but also to wider environment. There is also a huge cost in terms of resources in fighting these fires, as well as the work needed to restore the moorland environment which can take decades.

“We have some of the country’s best moorland in the Bradford district and we want people to be able to enjoy these areas, but at the same time people need to be responsible, so this joint campaign urging people to #BeMoorAware is a great way to get this message across.”

Remember – If you see a fire call 999

Know who is responsible? Call the charity CrimeStoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111

Breaking a Public Space Protection Order can lead to a fine of up to £2,500.

Statistics

Wildfires attended by West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service where four or more fire engines have been required to attend the blaze.

 

District 2014/15 2015/16 2016/17 2017/18 2018/19 Total
Bradford 0 1 2 1 5 9
Calderdale 0 1 3 0 0 4
Kirklees 1 0 0 0 5 6
Leeds 0 0 0 0 0 0
Wakefield 0 0 0 0 0 0
Total 1 2 5 1 10 19

 

To see the recent Fire Authority reports on the recent moorland fires at Ilkley and Marsden click here.