by Countryside Alliance

Devastating wildfires have been in the news again this week, following major outbreaks in West Yorkshire and Northern Ireland.

Firefighters on Northern Ireland’s highest peak, Slieve Donard,  battled for days to extinguish a significant wildfire that is believed to have been started deliberately.

The Mourne Mountains are one of Northern Ireland's most popular locations, attracting thousands of tourists. They are also a haven for breeding birds, including raptors and waders.

While the fire has been put out, the flames have damaged much of the local landscape, including its wildlife and biodiversity.

Additionally, on Sunday evening, a fire was started on Marsden Moor causing a mile-long blaze on moorland near Huddersfield. The area, which is known for its breeding bird habitat is a popular site for rare curlews. It is managed by the National Trust.

Game keepers, firefighters and farmers worked throughout the night to extinguish flames tearing through the landscape.  

The Farmers Guardian reports that nine farmers and four gamekeepers worked until 02:30am on Monday April 26 to help extinguish the fire, following a text asking for help from the gamekeepers on the ground and neighbouring moorland owners. It came after the 10 fire crews, which had attended through the day, were pulled off the site at approximately 8pm due to working protocols. 

Adrian Blackmore, Director of Shooting at the Countryside Alliance, said: “As well as risking lives, the wildfires that we have seen this week have caused devastation to wildlife and biodiversity.

As the relevant authorities now establish who was responsible for starting these fires, we cannot simply overlook the fact that the risk of wildfire has been increased by the National Trust’s decision to end the controlled burning of vegetation on its moorland in the Mourne Mountains and Peak District." 

Mr. Blackmore added: “Last year, wildfires in Australia devastated over 38,000 square miles, with untold damage to the country's unique biodiversity, not to mention loss of life and livelihoods. It was telling that on none of the 25,000 square miles of landholdings managed by the Australian Wildlife Conservancy - the largest private owner of land for conservation in Australia which carries out controlled burning- were affected by any of those wildfires.

“ Given our own experiences in the UK, the arguments in support of controlled burning are particularly compelling. They should not be ignored, and we will continue to challenge those that wish to end the practice, as in doing so they are threatening our natural habitats. ”

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Picture: National Trust tweet posted on 29/ 04/21

Wild fire prevention

The Countryside Alliance says:

Do not start fires or use BBQs as they are frequently the cause of wildfires.

Do not discard cigarettes

Dispose of litter appropriately

If you encounter a wildfire that you are unable to bring under control safely, move to a safe location up wind and call the emergency service on 999 immediately, giving an accurate location of the fire. 

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