West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service has ordered landowners to stop heather burning with “immediate effect” after 15 (some reports say 20) fire vehicles, and crews, had to respond to a fire that got out of control.
Nick Smith, assistant chief fire officer with West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service, said;
We are disappointed to see what has happened today which could have so easily been avoided and we urge landowners to stop controlled burning with immediate effect.
Controlled burning can easily spread, and tackling the consequences takes up a huge amount of the fire service’s time and resources – moorland fires can quite literally go on for miles and days.
We are currently trying to focus our resources on supporting the national effort to respond to Coronavirus and this is unhelpful to us.
We will be making every effort to contact landowners over the forthcoming days and to reiterate this message.
These are unprecedented times and we require our resources to support communities and help the vulnerable, rather than having firefighters tied up for days on the moors undertaking this kind of arduous work.
It is not where we want to be focusing our energies at this time, which we are sure people will understand.
Members of the public who are going onto the moorland for some fresh air and a walk should also be extra vigilant not to start a fire accidentally.https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-leeds-52009968, https://www.yorkshirepost.co.uk/news/crime/stop-controlled-burning-fire-service-issue-urgent-warning-15-engines-tackle-mile-long-west-yorkshire-moorlands-fire-2506349, https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/grouse-moor-blaze-angers-firefighters-jrhpqksb9
The blaze was close to Deer Hill reservoir on moorland between Melthan and Marsden, southwest of Huddersfield. Here is the area:
Here is the same general area with the priority habitat, blanket bog, shaded in buff using the MAGIC system;
A local resident told me;
The keepers have been burning like mad this past few days, and most seems to be on deep peat too.
Dame Natalie Bennett raised this incident in the House of Lords debate on coronavirus measures yesterday.
Lastly, there is the question of burning on the moors. Yesterday a controlled burn got out of control on the West Yorkshire Moors and 15 fire appliances had to be called the deal with it. Surely things like that should not be being done in this crisis.https://hansard.parliament.uk/Lords/2020-03-24/debates/8570A6D4-3516-4114-B70C-A57638B56C08/details#contribution-A3E9917B-C866-4308-8C5C-3B5DDD2F7A15
Let’s be fair, anyone can make mistakes, but these so-called ‘controlled’ moorland burnings, solely to skew the odds in favour of Red Grouse numbers so that those birds can be shot later in the year, often do get out of hand. There has to be quite some doubt as to whether grouse shooting will go ahead this year anyway; the grouse shooting season opens, on the Inglorious 12 August, a lot earlier than partridge or Pheasant shooting, or wildfowling, and no-one knows what will be the state of movement restrictions at that time. I know that some are already planning for virtual Hen Harrier Days just in case actual gatherings are out of the question.
And although accidents can happen anywhere, the whole business of moorland burning on the peat soils which cover much of our uplands, is known to be environmentally damaging anyway. The massive amount of moorland burning that goes on increases greenhouse gas emissions, increases flood risk and increases water treatment costs – it is a burden on the many and only happens to produce more living targets for a pointless hobby for the few.
DEFRA has promised to ban burning of peatlands and the Committee on Climate Change earlier this year called for that ban to be brought in this very year. Every headline like this brings that day closer.