Wildfires warning as coronavirus lockdown eases

Gamekeepers have warned the risk of moorland and grassland wildfires remains high as firefighters tackle large blazes across the country.

Tinder-dry conditions after very little rain in May has made the situation worse for crews battling to extinguish the fires.

In Lancashire, six fire engines extinguished a large grass fire on Grane Road in Haslingden, with the help of farm vehicles and mountain rescue teams. Crews remained on the scene on Wednesday (3 June) to dampen down hotspots.

See also: Farmers told to manage fire risk or see insurance cost rise

It follows a large blaze on Darwen Moor, which is believed to have been caused by a barbeque. Simon Fryer of Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service urged people not to be “thoughtless and careless” as lockdown restrictions are eased.

In Greater Manchester, heavy rain has helped firefighters tackle a large moorland fire near Dove Stone Reservoir, Oldham. More rain forecast over the next 10 days could help dampen fires in other parts of the country.

Gamekeepers tackled a wildfire on Bamford Moor in Derbyshire’s Peak District on Saturday 30 May. The gamekeepers used their own specialist firefighting equipment until fire services arrived.

Heightened risk

Tim Baynes, moorland director at Scottish Land & Estates, said private investment in equipment and manpower by estates which provide this wildfire fighting service is estimated to be in the tens of millions of pounds across the country.

“Each year, we are witnessing more and more wildfires occurring on moorland and grassland, and this period of exceptionally hot weather in the UK has heightened the risk once again.

“These fires often occur by innocuous means such as discarded cigarettes and disposable barbecues, and we need to ensure the correct precautions are taken by those accessing hills and moors.

“Sadly, those managing rural land have found more careless behaviour occurring since lockdown rather than less.”

It also follows a series of fires in Scotland over the past three months, including those at Glenfeshie in the Highlands, Strathpeffer in Rossshire and in Stirlingshire, near Bannockburn.

Fire advice for farmers

  • Clean and service harvesting equipment, including fuses, grease moving parts and remove old harvest residues.
  • Ensure your fire extinguisher is fully operational.
  • Have a bowser of water in the harvest field.
  • Have equipment handy to create a cultivated fire break around the field.
  • Have a plan in case of fire, and brief harvest workers, whether full time or agency, on what to do if a fire is found.
  • Have a grid reference for the field to give to the fire service if a fire breaks out.

Source: NFU

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