Moorland fires stopping crews from helping ambulance staff, West Yorkshire Fire says

Firefighters have spoken out after attending two moorland fires less than 24 hours apart in the same location, as a council urges people not to use sky lanterns as a tribute to NHS staff.

Thursday, 16th April 2020, 5:00 pm

West Yorkshire Fire & Rescue Service was called to a fire in the open at Sowerby Bridge on Wednesday evening, before attending a second fire on the same moorland at Blackstone Edge yesterday morning. The first fire was 200m in length, while the second measured 100m in length and required four fire engines.

In a tweet issued by the Service today (Thursday), the public were reminded to stay at home and only exercise on the moors where necessary.

It comes ten days after a large fire at Deer Hill Reservoir near Holmfirth, with the Service claiming that such incidents are distracting them from other duties such as supporting ambulance services during the coronavirus crisis.

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Firefighters battling a moorland fire off Turvin Road in Calderdale on Wednesday evening, as the fire service issues a warning to the public. Picture: WYFRS

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Lead Ranger, Tom Harman, said: "The moors are very vulnerable at this time; the grass is very dry and many birds are nesting on the ground. It’s so frustrating that our message does not seem to be getting through and once again emergency services are taken away from important work, like supporting ambulance staff during the coronavirus outbreak.”

The warning comes as Leeds City Council Leader Judith Blake issued a statement today, urging people not to use sky lanterns to make tributes to key workers.

Echoing a similar warning issued by the National Fire Chiefs Council last week,, the Ms Blake said: “We’re all extremely proud and thankful for the amazing work being done by our key workers. However, I'd urge residents to continue showing their support in ways that are safe and not to light sky lanterns.

Firefighters battling a moorland fire off Turvin Road in Calderdale, as the fire service issues a warning to the public. Picture: WYFRS

“Sky lanterns (which some residents may know as ‘Chinese lanterns’) are highly flammable and increase the risk of wildfires. Whilst our emergency services are under unprecedented pressure due to the coronavirus pandemic, it’s vitally important that we all do everything possible to help them focus on their response to this virus and not on managing unnecessary fires."

Kirklees District Commander for WYFRS, Toby May, said: “Within West Yorkshire and around the Marsden moor area we have had a couple of significant moorland fires in recent weeks. Such incidents are extremely challenging to deal with and can in the main be prevented.

"We want people to be more vigilant, enjoy open spaces where appropriate bearing in mind the social distancing guidelines – but to make sure no ignition sources are taken near the moorland.

"I’d like to show my appreciation to the work ethic and professionalism of WYFRS staff, partner agencies and members of the public in relation to these fires.”

Firefighters battling a moorland fire off Turvin Road in Calderdale on Wednesday evening, as the fire service issues a warning to the public. Picture: WYFRS