Whilst we have suffered such a wet winter we should be aware that in a changing climate more extreme events can lead to extreme dry conditions as well as extreme wet conditions and that can bring a danger of wildfire to the South Pennines.
Our moors are founded on peat and the basis of peat is sphagnum moss. Our peatland is described as the ‘rainforest’ of the British Isles on account of its unique wildlife; in particular, ground nesting birds and birds of prey. The South Pennines Moors are home to both our fastest bird of prey (the Peregrine falcon) and our smallest (the Merlin). All this can quite literally go up in smoke through neglect or arson in the coming months.
The moorland close to the residents of Calderdale regularly suffers moorland fires. Many will remember the really damaging fires of 2014. These fires are set deliberately or are caused by carelessness. Whilst there is ‘controlled’ burning permitted on heather moors before the middle of April there is no permitted burning on grassland. The majority of our grass moor fires are later than this and destroy the nests of many bird species in the vital breeding season. In the South Pennines there should NO intentional burning of grass moors. Basically, grass moor fires destroy wildlife and halts the recovery of the moorland. They also endanger the restoration work which is taking place on bare peat to reduce carbon loss and help combat climate change.
If over the next few months, you happen to see a moorland fire, please dial 999 and ask for fire. Never assume that someone else will have rung the fire service already, because others may be thinking the same thing!
The Fire Service, Police and Natural England take wildfire very seriously. Through the South Pennines Fire Operation Group we want to increase awareness of the danger of wildfire to our iconic moors. Much of the moorland in Calderdale and Kirklees is internationally recognised and protected SSSI (site of Special Scientific Interest) or SPA (Special Protection Area). Wilful damage to these priceless habitats is a crime.