A hard-hitting campaign warning of the devastation large moorland fires can cause has been launched to coincide with the start of the school summer holidays.
West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service (WYFRS) has launched its #BeMoorAware campaign following a record breaking 11 large moorland fires in the first six months of this year which had posed a serious threat to life and property.
The campaign was launched on Ilkley Moor, the scene of one of this year’s fires, on Thursday morning and saw a huge banner unveiled down the ‘cow’ rock at the famous ‘cow and calf’ site on the moorland.
WYFRS area manager Chris Kirby said: “This year has seen some huge moorland fires across West Yorkshire and it’s crucial the public get behind this campaign to ensure this trend doesn’t continue.
“Some of the fires have been deliberate, which we utterly condemn – but most have been accidental and simply due to people being careless when out and about. “As our campaign highlights – just one family barbecue can start a fire which destroys hundreds of hectares of beautiful moorland.”
WYFRS is also supporting Bradford, Kirklees and Calderdale councils with their new public space protection orders (PSPOs) which ban barbecues, fires and things like sky lanterns on moorland.
Mr Kirby said: “We don’t want to ruin anyone’s fun but we do want to make people aware of the serious consequences that a barbecue or a dropped cigarette can have, especially in tinder dry conditions.
“A fire can spread so quickly, once it’s caught there’s little you can do to stop it and before you know it there’s a catastrophic blaze with far reaching consequences. This not only impacts on local moorland and wildlife, but affects local businesses, especially if roads need to be closed for health and safety reasons.”
This year WYFRS attended a moorland fire in Marsden as early as February 26, which is unprecedented for the time of year.
At its height, more than 35 firefighters were in attendance and part of the A62 was closed as a precaution.
Following this, 10 more large fires have taken place - the largest fire service response saw 23 fire engines called to Ilkley Moor on April 20.
Mr Kirby said: “This level of resource required can mean we have to call in support from other fire a rescue services.
“There are arrangements in place for us to support other services in their time of need and we also receive support when we are dealing with emergencies that stretch our resources. But we would prefer not to be in a position to have to request help from other parts of the country. The best way to do this is to raise the profile of this campaign and prevent moorland fires starting in the first place.”
Joining WYFRS for the campaign are partners Yorkshire Water, Bradford Council, Kirklees Council, Calderdale Council, United Utilities, National Trust and Crimestoppers.
They are reminding everyone to follow advice and never be tempted to light a fire in the countryside, including barbecues and never throw lighted cigarette ends onto the ground.