Moorland managers are ‘eyes and ears’ against wildfires

Gamekeepers and moorland manages are stepping up their efforts to help prevent wildfires putting extra strain on emergency services.

The unseasonably warm weather conditions are already resulting in daily wildfires, placing even greater pressure on our fire and rescue services.

Belmont in Lancaster notorious for its history of wildfires caught fire again this afternoon, diverting Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service resources away from their work combatting COVID-19.

Following guidance from the UK government the UK’s National Parks have closed their offices, ranger hubs and visitor facilities including car parks, and have asked staff to remain at home, unless undertaking essential safety tasks.

Whilst these actions are important for combatting the spread of the coronavirus it also means our precious moorlands are vulnerable, particularly to the risk of wildfires.

Gamekeepers are at hand and are equipped and trained to fight in the front line against wildfires. Last Saturday a major incident was avoided on the hills near Glossop thanks to the swift response of local gamekeepers. The fire was observed by the local gamekeeper who called the local fire and rescue service who were on site within half an hour. However, the terrain made it impossible for firefighters to get their Argocat onto the site leaving it up to the three gamekeepers, who succeeded in putting out the fire by midnight.

Gamekeepers traditionally work in isolation and so are at minimal risk of spreading the virus, especially as members of the public have been requested to stay away.

Due to the current weather conditions, concerns over COVID-19 linked respiratory issues and the overstretched status of our emergency services fighting the virus, the Moorland Assocaiton has asked its members to put any planned controlled burning on hold. The approved heather burning seasons ends next month.

Amanda Anderson, Director of the Moorland Association commented: “Gamekeepers and moorland managers are ready to do their bit and step up during this time of national crisis. They are the eyes and the ears who will help spot and put out wildfires.

It is important that we still have boots on the ground – keeping a keen watch for wildfires and responding to any that break out. The work they do is of great benefit to the public by providing no-cost firefighting support – not only protecting local homeowners and residents but for the nation as a whole by preventing the release of significant amounts of carbon emissions into the atmosphere.

If all the carbon stored in English peatlands were lost to the atmosphere as a result of wildfires it would release the equivalent of five years of England’s annual CO2 emissions, so it is in all of our interests to reduce the scale and intensity of wildfires.”