The Pennine Moors covering Kirklees, Calderdale and parts of Bradford contain Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and Special Areas of Conservation (SACs), the highest National Protection Designation and highest European Nature Conservation Designation.
West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service has a statutory duty to protect the moorland environment and is a member of the South Pennines Fire Operation Group made up of local councils, landowners, Fire and Rescue Services, Yorkshire Water, United Utilities, Pennine Prospects and Natural England. The group coordinates protection activity within these areas.
Along with our partners, we want people to #BeMoorAware of the impacts that moorland wildfire has on our communities and how we can help to prevent future wildfires across West Yorkshire.
Environmental & Economic Impacts
The impacts of wildfires are numerous and wide-ranging. They can have significant effects on the economy, environment, heritage and social fabric of rural areas.
- Nature – the moors are home to a variety of wildlife, they are internationally important for birds (such as the golden plover, curlew, lapwing, twite, red grouse, ring ouzel, merlin and perigrin falcon), blanket bogs, heather, crowberry, bilberry and moorland grasses. Wildfires devastate nesting ground and the vegetation birds feed on.
- Leisure – The moors are the venue for a wide variety of leisure activities, 6 million people are within commuting distance of the West Yorkshire moors and can enjoy walking, biking, horse riding and running – all of which is threatened when areas are burnt and the landscape becomes an unpleasant scene to enjoy.
- Property – Any property within close proximity to the moors can be put at risk.
- Agriculture, sport and the rural economy – The moors are extensively used to graze sheep and for sporting purposes such as grouse shooting. The moors look the way they do because they are managed for these activities. Grouse shooting and sheep farming contribute to the local economy by providing employment for a significant number of people. Wildfire can have a devastating effect on people’s jobs and livelihoods.
- Flood Management – Increasingly, the uplands are playing their part in reducing flooding in the valleys below, where most of us live. Moors can reduce runoff, acting as sponges to soak up water. Grip or ditch blocking slows down runoff and creates wetter areas on the moors. After a wildfire, the water runs off quickly causing flash floods and taking vital soils and peat with it, leaving bare slopes and causing even more and longer lasting damage.
- Pollution Control – Slopes which are exposed after a wildfire allow runoff to increase and, in turn, the amount of pollution suspended in the water that flows off the moors and ends up in our rivers and reservoirs is increased. Airborne pollution is also released by large moorland fires and the smoke can have serious effects on people’s health over a wide area.
- Carbon Sink – Moorland areas are even better than woodlands at storing carbon dioxide (CO2), the gas that contributes to the world’s climate change. It is estimated that Britain’s peat bogs store the equivalent of 10 times the country’s total CO2 emissions. When these peat bogs are damaged by pollution, overgrazing or fire, they start leaking CO2 instead of storing it.*
How can you help?
Below are some simple steps you can take to help protect the wildlife and moors;
- 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
- If you notice anything suspicious report it by calling Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 or through the moor watch website at www.moorwatch.co.uk(Opens in a new window)
- 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.
- Never be tempted to light a fire in the countryside and only barbecue in authorised areas
What is wildfire?
Wildfire is an uncontrolled and unplanned spread of fire in an open area of typically grass land or upland moorland. Wildfires can be unpredictable and burn quickly and furiously, requiring a lot of valuable resources and time.
Moorland fires can be costly to both the agencies involved, wildlife and the surrounding communities. Protecting these beautiful but fragile uplands is a priority for all.
How can wildfire increase the risk of flooding?
Our moorlands contribute to flood management; preventing flooding in lower valleys by acting as sponges to soak up water. When damaged by fire their capacity to hold water is reduced.
How can wildlfire cause pollution?
Slopes which become exposed afer a wildfire allow runoff into streams and reservoirs increasing the pollution suspended in the water. Airborne pollution is also released during a wildfire, smoke which can have serious effects on people’s health.
What is carbon sink?
Moorlands store carbon dioxide (CO2), the gas which contributes to the world’s Climate Change. When the peat bogs of the Moors are damaged by wildfire they start leaking CO2 rather than storing it.
What to do if you discover a fire?
Move to safe place and call the Fire Service on 999 immediately, provide as much details as you can including size of fire, location and terrain.
Don’t tackle the fire.
If you haven’t already, self evacuate the area as soon as possible – These fires can spread fast.
This project aims to raise awareness of wildfires on our moors and the impact they have to our land, wildlife and community, in order to reduce the likelihood of further wildfires on our moors.
Bradford Council, Calderdale Council & Kirklees Council have all brought in new Public Space Protection Orders (PSPO’s) relating to bans on barbeques, fires, sky lanterns, fireworks and other dangerous items from moorland across the district.