Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Wildfire in the Peak District

The Peak District Moorland Group's Facebook page has some images, video clips and other information about the wildfire that occurred on Howden Moor, near Ladybower reservoir,  yesterday.

Anyone wanting to see the devastation to moorland caused by these incidents should have a look at this Facebook page. A click on the photos will enlarge them and give access to the comments added by the Moorland Group - they speak for themselves.

There is an interesting debate about the management of moorland developing in the comments that have been added to Facebook.  The National Trust is being criticised for the lack of heather management but it has also been pointed out that there is no fire without a source of ignition and the three main sources are men, women and children.

Some of the areas of the moor in the photos appear to have been managed recently, probably by burning, and I guess that these areas are on land that is managed for grouse shooting.  The photos show how the fire has not affected these areas.  This is a demonstration of the point that we need to plan for wildfire as part of our management of moorland.  You do not have to shoot grouse to manage moorland properly, and management should include the construction of firebreaks to provide stops for wildfire and also to allow access for firefighting.  Firebreaks will also add vegetation diversity that will increase the value of moorland to a range of plant, bird and animal species.

Firebreaks do not have to be motorways cut or burned in ugly, straight lines across moorland; they can be formed to follow the landscape and add visual diversity.

My work with the England & Wales Wildfire Forum is plagued by short-term memories.  At this time of year, while the smoke is rising, the wildfire challenge appears to be possible to address, but the solutions drift away as soon as the rain starts to fall.  

We should acknowledge the hard graft put in by all those involved in fighting these fires, and the risks that they face.  We must also understand their frustration that with more thought, and better planning, much of this effort would not be necessary.

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