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Catchment Management

Yorkshire Water warns of wildfire risk during National BBQ Week

Yorkshire Water has warned against the lighting of BBQs on open moorland to reduce the risk of wildfires breaking out on its land during National BBQ Week (27th May – 2nd June).

Disposal BBQs are the leading cause of wildfires with many people unaware that it is illegal to light them in open moorland spaces. A recent blaze on Ilkley Moor in April was caused by a BBQ which led to the damage of 200 hectarres of internationally important peatland.

Also, earlier this year, a fire on Saddleworth Moor near Marsden led to Yorkshire Water temporarily shutting off water intake from catchment land around Scammonden reservoir, to prevent any water quality risk from burnt ash.

Lisa Harrowsmith, Yorkshire Water’s Land and Property Surveyor, explained how wildfires can affect drinking water quality: “The problem with wildfires – many of which are caused by BBQs - is that they cause water catchment land to dry out, which increases peat sediment getting into reservoirs and can cause water colour problems. It is therefore vital that we contain the impact of wildfires so they do not have an adverse effect on drinking water quality.”

Besides water quality problems, wildfires are not only dangerous but can devastate local ecosystems. For instance, they can damage deep peat soils formed over thousands of years, which results in the loss of valuable habitat and wildlife such as birds, reptiles and insects much of which is of international importance. Damage to this peatland can also reduce natural flood protection due to less water being able to be absorbed in the soil.

Soyland Moor, which is close to Saddleworth Moor, has in the past experienced numerous wildfires, the worst of which occurred in 2013 that damaged 1,000 hectares of land in Soyland and Rishworth in Calderdale, the equivalent of 140 full-sized football pitches. Large areas of peat bog and mature heathland were destroyed along with numerous birds’ nests.

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