Moorland managers exhibit further lack of control

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.,,

The blaze was close to Deer Hill reservoir on moorland between Melthan and Marsden, southwest of Huddersfield. Here is the area:

Google maps:,-1.9268836,16440m/data=!3m1!1e3 the dark shape at the top of the image is Deer Hill reservoir. The image shows the patterns of regular moorland burning characteristic of grouse moors.

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.

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.

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11 Replies to “Moorland managers exhibit further lack of control”

  1. Well said West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service. One is just astounded that these Grouse Moor Owners continue to perpetrate these burning practices. It is just one more demonstration that the voluntary approac, so beloved by the Tories, because it is less harmful to their vested interests, does not work.
    However it is still incredible how long the Tories and DEFRA are taking to bring in legislation to ban the burning of OUR moorlands. It seems they are taking every feasible opportunity not to take action in this matter. What a self interested lot they are.
    Anyway perhaps this latest incident will help to make their further procrastination untenable.

  2. Coronavirus affects the lungs. Those that are asthmatic or with any other lung/breathing problems are also at risk. With Oldham and Holmfirth so close, depending on wind direction, those living in these towns are at risk of airborne particles even if they can’t see the smoke. They are also at risk of fires in their own homes not being attended to as quickly as would otherwise be the case, due to tenders being further away.
    At a time when we are all being asked to be a little less selfish and think of others, what better example do we need of the selfishness of the rich landowners. This has now gone way beyond Hen Harriers.
    Will the government ask them to pay for the fire service time, will any one of the many organisations that represent these despicable types, ask for some control. No. No because they are one and the same.

  3. Moorland game keepers are in the recreation industry, they are not essential workers. They should be at home just now. Not mixing. Not putting the emergency services at risk.

    Looking at this poor area of moorland, it looks like it may have been owned by the military and is only recently being converted to an area for killing for fun.

  4. On a partly related topic: I hope lots of ecologist (and maybe others?) are considering what research this crisis might provide a unique opportunity for, given the unprecedented conditions

  5. We're being asked not to go hillwalking so as to avoid call-outs for the Mountain Rescue teams, yet the perpetrators of this bloodsport are content to draw on and risk really quite large resources in pursuit of their hobby.

  6. The selfishness of these people should be taken as a given. After all there is a voluntary ban on burning on deep peat at least. Then again no doubt if this moor is dry enough to burn, and it only too clearly is, it is probably covered in drainage grips, which as we know should be blocked to allow these peat soils to maximize their CO2 capacity, that they are not is another selfish act. On another site a commentator said that the keepers on this moor have shall we say certain attitudes as to what they can and cannot kill. We have for sometime been trying to get such estates to obey the law concerning raptors too with a poor return.
    So yes the owners of such moors are supremely selfish and possibly the comments by the fire chief come as a bit of a shock to folk used to getting their own way. they need to get used to it because hopefully there is much more of it coming their way.

  7. I do wish people would stop referring to it as "controlled burning": that is part of their propaganda offensive. This is irresponsible burning and is clearly anything other than controlled.

  8. Perhaps "The Disliker/s" would care to justify their support for these cretins with a comment? Don't hold your breath, boys and girls!

      1. Indeed my friend, I think we have to assume we are either hitting the nail on the head or that these cowardly folk feel that they are loosing the argument. Personally I am happy for folk to disagree with me but their opinions count for little or nothing if they don't try to argue for them cogently.


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