Lancashire TelegraphFire experts call for changes to protect East Lancs moors from ‘disastrous’ blazes (From Lancashire Telegraph)

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Fire experts call for changes to protect East Lancs moors from ‘disastrous’ blazes

Lancashire Telegraph: RAGING The fire on land at Turton Heights and Cheetham Close near Chapeltown, with Winter Hill TV mast in the background                                            Picture: BRIAN ROBERTS RAGING The fire on land at Turton Heights and Cheetham Close near Chapeltown, with Winter Hill TV mast in the background Picture: BRIAN ROBERTS

THOUSANDS of acres have been devastated by fires that have spread across East Lancashire moorland, with crews from across the county battling the blazes.

As conservationists count the cost, TOM MOSELEY asks what can be done to protect our treasured wild areas.

FIREFIGHTERS are hoping that ‘one last big push’ will help bring an end to the wildfires that have ravaged Lancashire’s moorlands over the past week.

And last night, as fingers were crossed for much-needed rainfall, experts assessed the ‘disastrous’ outbreak – and called for defences to be tightened.

More fire breaks, restrictions on walkers and ‘re-wetting’ the land were all put forward as possible solutions.

Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service, which has been stretched to the limit, pledged a full-scale review into the operation.

And senior officers could also speak to counterparts in Australia and the US, where dry land outbreaks, or bushfires, are more common.

United Utilities, owners of land at Belmont which has been the scene of the biggest fire, said it already did ‘a huge amount of forward-planning’.

But criticism came from the Moorland Association, which branded the current system 'pitifully inadequate'.

The dry, windy weather had created ‘tinder box’ conditions, it said. And with a disposable barbecue the chief suspect for the massive fire at Belmont, Martin Gilibrand, the association’s secretary, said moorland should be more readily closed to visitors.

“Last year in the North West was the driest for 70 years but it still wasn’t classed as an extreme fire risk,” he said.

“Because we are so obsessed that access should not be stopped, we set the bar so high that it is practically useless.”

Changes could be imminent, with ministers currently reviewing the Act of Parliament that brought in the freedom to roam.

More fire breaks should be created by burning off areas of peat, Mr Giliband said, and a graduated system of warning, as used in foreign countries such as Australia, should be in place to alert ramblers.

But Nick Osborne, a sites and access manager for Lancashire County Council, said he believed ‘copy cat’ fires had been started.

“There is always a balancing act between raising it as an issue and actually encouraging the sorts of people who want to start these fires,” he said.

He said there was a growing case for re-wetting peat land, by blocking drains so the ground holds water for longer, which could help provide a more long-term solution.

A Fire Operations Group, made up of services from Lancashire, Greater Manchester and West Yorkshire services, currently meets to look at ways to protect the moorland.

Mapping exercises, to identify the areas most at risk, are also carried out, said Robin Gray, of Pennine Prospects, which works with landowners and councils.

“A lot is already happening,” he insisted.

According to Brian Jackson, East Lancashire Friends of the Earth, worse is to come as climate change brings more extreme conditions.

He said: “We are going to get longer, drier, hotter summers.”

Richard Edney, of Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service, said a review would look at how fire chiefs can better tackle moor blazes in future.

He said: “It will look at more modern ways of fighting moorland fires.

“For example, using land information and wind-reading technology, we should be able to predict how the fires will spread so our firefighters can tackle them better.”

It is understood that Lancashire could sign a contract with a private company to have a helicopter on stand-by for future moorland fires after buying an aircraft was ruled out as not cost effective.

Comments (5)

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9:53pm Fri 6 May 11

Babbar Divino says...

Face facts most of these sorts of fires are started intentionally. Always have been always will. As for the Belmont blaze being started by a disposable BBQ alright an accident but when\if conditions are so bad why isn't there just a restriction on fires ie.a total fire ban.
Face facts most of these sorts of fires are started intentionally. Always have been always will. As for the Belmont blaze being started by a disposable BBQ alright an accident but when\if conditions are so bad why isn't there just a restriction on fires ie.a total fire ban. Babbar Divino
  • Score: 0

10:10pm Fri 6 May 11

shedhead64 says...

Are we not artificially draining these natural peat bogs for our own water consumption...... What do we expect to happen after a "dry spell"..
Are we not artificially draining these natural peat bogs for our own water consumption...... What do we expect to happen after a "dry spell".. shedhead64
  • Score: 0

2:36pm Sat 7 May 11

happycyclist says...

These fires are in out of the way places and unless there is a very disturbed individual roaming the West Pennine Moors, I don't believe it's likely that they are being started intentionally.

Restrictions on access to the moors would be draconian and probably wouldn't prevent anything if they are being started deliberately.
These fires are in out of the way places and unless there is a very disturbed individual roaming the West Pennine Moors, I don't believe it's likely that they are being started intentionally. Restrictions on access to the moors would be draconian and probably wouldn't prevent anything if they are being started deliberately. happycyclist
  • Score: 0

9:45am Sun 8 May 11

BjornAganeByka says...

" Because we are so obsessed that access should not be stopped...."

HA !!!!!!!!!!!!!!
THAT'S a joke - they stopped access to thousands of miles of old "green" roads to stop motor-cycle trailriders using them and they did it quickly and easily too.
Why did they stop us so easily ?
The number of motor-cycle trailriders in the UK probably never numbered more than 4000.
The number of RAMBLERS and other, unaffiliated walkers probably runs into hundreds of thousands, if not a million or more.
That is a lot of VOTERS. Best not upset them, eh?
" Because we are so obsessed that access should not be stopped...." HA !!!!!!!!!!!!!! THAT'S a joke - they stopped access to thousands of miles of old "green" roads to stop motor-cycle trailriders using them and they did it quickly and easily too. Why did they stop us so easily ? The number of motor-cycle trailriders in the UK probably never numbered more than 4000. The number of RAMBLERS and other, unaffiliated walkers probably runs into hundreds of thousands, if not a million or more. That is a lot of VOTERS. Best not upset them, eh? BjornAganeByka
  • Score: 0

11:35am Wed 11 May 11

northturton says...

Does Brian Jackson of East Lancs Friends of the Earth actually live in Lancashire, or has he failed to notice the wet miserable summers we've had of late?
Summer appears to now occur in May (April this year!) and July/August have on average been wet...followed by a sunny September!
Does Brian Jackson of East Lancs Friends of the Earth actually live in Lancashire, or has he failed to notice the wet miserable summers we've had of late? Summer appears to now occur in May (April this year!) and July/August have on average been wet...followed by a sunny September! northturton
  • Score: 0

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