Controlled burning of moorland put on hold

31 March 2020

Before the Government announced the current lockdown North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service had seen a rise in fire on open moorland that were thought to be accidental and caused by people visiting the moors.

They are asking that if anyone should be on the moors or upland areas please be very careful and take care to avoid any fires starting.

Dave Winspear, North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue said:

It is vitally important during these challenging and unprecedented time that we all need to take proactive and responsible steps to reduce the likelihood of wildfires starting and support North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service to maintain effective FRS response and resilience.

Gamekeepers and moorland manages are stepping up their efforts to help prevent wildfires putting extra strain on emergency services.

The unseasonably warm weather conditions are already resulting in daily wildfires, placing even greater pressure on our fire and rescue services.

Dave Winspear, North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue said:

In view of the current challenges with COVID-19, North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service are working with the moorland association and requesting that all land owners and land managers in North Yorkshire only undertake prescribed fires if absolutely essential to do so.

If the burns are essential, please ensure that you have sufficient personnel and resources to control and extinguish the burn safely.

We urge land owners and land managers to exercise caution.

Whilst conditions may be good for burning, they could also be supportive of very large wildfires.

Following guidance from the UK government the UK’s National Parks have closed their offices, ranger hubs and visitor facilities including car parks, and have asked staff to remain at home, unless undertaking essential safety tasks.

Whilst these actions are important for combatting the spread of the coronavirus it also means our precious moorlands are vulnerable, particularly to the risk of wildfires.

Gamekeepers traditionally work in isolation and so are at minimal risk of spreading the virus, especially as members of the public have been requested to stay away.

Due to the current weather conditions, concerns over COVID-19 linked respiratory issues and the overstretched status of our emergency services fighting the virus, the Moorland Association has asked its members to put any planned controlled burning on hold. The approved heather burning seasons ends next month.

Amanda Anderson, Director of the Moorland Association commented:

Gamekeepers and moorland managers are ready to do their bit and step up during this time of national crisis. They are the eyes and the ears who will help spot and put out wildfires.

It is important that we still have boots on the ground – keeping a keen watch for wildfires and responding to any that break out.

The work they do is of great benefit to the public by providing no-cost firefighting support – not only protecting local homeowners and residents but for the nation as a whole by preventing the release of significant amounts of carbon emissions into the atmosphere.

If all the carbon stored in English peatlands were lost to the atmosphere as a result of wildfires it would release the equivalent of five years of England’s annual CO2 emissions, so it is in all of our interests to reduce the scale and intensity of wildfires.

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