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Firefighters join National Trust in condemning moorland fires

West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service (WYFRS) crews and National Trust rangers are warning that reckless behaviour on the moors could be putting lives at risk. It’s after three moorland fires in just two weeks that saw dozens of firefighters called away from other duties, including supporting ambulance staff during the coronavirus outbreak.

The most recent fire, which happened on 6th April, saw a fire on National Trust land near Deer Hill reservoir. The fire covered approximately 300m by 700m of moorland. Ten fire appliances attended, with firefighters working for several hours to extinguish the fire. National Trust rangers were also on the scene to provide local knowledge and access for WYFRS.

The cause of the fire is unknown, but it was not due to any controlled burning. The National Trust does not carry out controlled burning on Marsden Moor.

Last April, a huge fire caused by a BBQ destroyed 700 hectares of moorland, impacting wildlife such as ground nesting birds and mountain hare. It also damaged the moor’s peat soils, an important tool in the fight against climate change.

Kirklees District Commander for WYFRS, Toby May, said: “Within West Yorkshire and around the Marsden moor area we have had a couple of significant moorland fires in recent weeks. Such incidents are extremely challenging to deal with and can in the main be prevented. We want people to be more vigilant, enjoy open spaces where appropriate bearing in mind the social distancing guidelines – but to make sure no ignition sources are taken near the moorland. I’d like to show my appreciation to the work ethic and professionalism of WYFRS staff, partner agencies and members of the public in relation to these fires.”

Lead Ranger, Tom Harman, said, “This is the third fire we’ve had to deal with in two weeks and it’s so devastating to see wildlife harmed again. The moors are very vulnerable at this time; the grass is very dry and many birds are nesting on the ground. It’s so frustrating that our message does not seem to be getting through and once again emergency services are taken away from important work, like supporting ambulance staff during the coronavirus outbreak.”

Countryside Manager, Craig Best, said, “The rangers worked incredibly hard yesterday alongside West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue to extinguish this fire quickly. At a time when we are all concerned about the impact of the coronavirus, this is not a job I want my team to be dealing with. The moors are very dry, despite all the rain we had at the start of the year. It is important that we protect the many hundreds of thousands of pounds we have spent on moorland restoration to improve water quality, store carbon, improve homes for wildlife and reduce flood risk.”

Last year, Kirklees Council introduced a Public Spaces Protection Order to ban fires, BBQs and fireworks on open moorland. The #bemooraware campaign is in partnership with the National Trust, Yorkshire Water, United Utilities and West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue service.

Members of the public should clear up litter, extinguish cigarettes properly and never leave glass bottles which can magnify the sun’s rays. They should always adhere to signs on National Trust land and call 999 if they see a fire.