Gamekeepers and moorland managers today appealed for the general public to stay away from the moors and uplands over the Easter Weekend.

The unseasonably warm weather conditions have dried out the uplands greatly increasing the chance of wildfires. There has already been a spate of wildfires across England over the past month diverting the attention and resources of the emergency services away from battling the coronavirus.

A combination of the weather conditions, concerns about smoke from burning complicating respiratory issues linked to Covid 19 and ongoing pressures on emergency services has led moorland managers to suspend any planned controlled burning – usually a vital tool in reducing fuel loads.

This has resulted in conditions on our treasured landscapes where the smallest spark could set the place alight. Managers are particularly concerned about the added risk of fly-tipping combustible rubbish in our countryside as a result of the coronavirus restrictions.

On Wednesday DEFRA set out new guidance for councils on prioritising waste collection services during COVID-19 pandemic. This includes the recommendation that key household waste recycling centres to remain open, where social distancing is possible, in order to avoid fly-tipping and waste piling up.

Add to this the coronavirus restrictions which have forced National Park authorities and organisations to scale back their workforce, meaning there are fewer boots on the ground to watch over our uplands.

Fortunately, gamekeepers and other moorland managers are stepping up their efforts during this time of national crisis and have readied specialist equipment and are experienced to fight in the front line against wildfires. 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.

Amanda Anderson, Director of the Moorland Association remarked: “Our members are committed to do their bit. It is vital we still have boots on the ground – keeping a keen watch for wildfires and being the rapid response to any that break out. There have already been several near misses over the past month – where the quick actions of local gamekeepers have prevented wildfires from spreading.

“It is essential however that members of the public follow Government instructions and stay at home and away from the moors over the Easter Weekend. Our hard-pressed emergency services are needed to save lives not tackle wildfires or deal with people flouting both COVID-19 restrictions and the law by dumping rubbish.”