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Catchment Management

North Yorkshire Wildfire Group warns of barbecues wildfire risks in the Dales

To reduce the risk of wildfires on North Yorkshire’s moors during the current heatwave, The North Yorkshire Wildfire Group is reminding people it is illegal to have barbeques on moorland.

In the past, barbeques, particularly disposable ones, have been left on the ground not properly extinguished, sparking wildfires.

Last month, in Harrogate, fire crews battled with a blaze on 100 square metres of grassland near Beckwithshaw, which required six fire engines on the scene. The cause of the fire was unknown.

Lisa Harrowsmith, Yorkshire Water’s Land and Property Lead Surveyor and Secretary of the North Yorkshire Wildfire Group, said: “Our aim is to reduce the incidents of wildfire, ensure best practice on current managed moors by gamekeepers, and minimise the impacts of wildfires when they do occur, particularly moorland and forest fires.”

The group is working closely with North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service to ensure its plans are up-to-date in the event a wildfire breaks out. The plans include owner and occupiers contact details, local firefighting resources, as well as access and water supply information.

Several wildfires have broken out on Yorkshire Water land in recent years, and the company, as part of the group, is playing a key role in raising awareness of wildfire risks.

The firm has issued temporary warning signs to its moorland tenants to put up near public rights of way.

The moorlands in Calderdale are considered one of the most notorious areas for wildfires in Yorkshire. Within the last ten years, wildfires have broken out that have damaged 3,000 hectares of land, equivalent to the size of over 4,000 football pitches.

Lisa Harrowsmith added: “Wildfires are not only dangerous but devastate local ecosystems in many ways. For instance they can destroy peat soils formed over thousands of years, which results in loss of valuable habitat and wildlife such as birds, reptiles and insects” much of international importance.

In 2013, the last major moorland fire in Calderdale damaged nearly 1,000 hectares of land in Soyland and Rishworth, the equivalent of 140 full-sized football pitches. Large areas of peat bog and mature heathland were destroyed along with numerous birds’ nests.

Lisa Harrowsmith also explained how wildfires can affect drinking water quality: “The source of much of the water we use in Yorkshire comes from our moorland catchment zones. The problem with wildfires is that they cause this land to dry out, which increases peat sediment getting into reservoirs and causes water colour problems. It is therefore vital that we limit their occurrences rather than having to keep paying more money to treat the water.”

The North Yorkshire Wildfire Group consists of Yorkshire Water, Fire and Rescue Services, The Moorland Association, National Parks, Natural England and private landowners.

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