NATIONAL Trust rangers have urged people to stay away from “vulnerable” moorland to avoid a repeat of last year’s major fires.
Wildlife and hundreds of hectares of open space throughout Saddleworth and neighbouring Kirklees were destroyed in the blazes.Twenty fire engines were deployed to tackle a mile-long fire near Deer Hill reservoir on Marsden Moor on Monday, March 23.
The incident is thought to have started after the spread of a controlled burn used by some landowners to increase grouse numbers.
Now, rangers warn more fires are possible because of a prolonged period of dry weather and concerns the public may ignore government guidance to stay at home to stop the spread of Covid-19.
Last April, a huge fire caused by a BBQ destroyed 700 hectares of moorland, impacting wildlife such as ground nesting birds and mountain hare.
It also damaged the moor’s peat soils, an important tool in the fight against climate change.
Lead Ranger, Tom Harman, said: “As we enter a spell of dry weather, the moors are very vulnerable.
“Monday’s fire showed how quickly things can spread. We want to remind the public no BBQs or fires are allowed on the moors. They shouldn’t be visiting at this time.”
Countryside Manager, Craig Best, said: “The rangers worked incredibly hard alongside West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue to prevent the fire from spreading across more National Trust land.
“At a time when we are all concerned about the impact of the coronavirus, this is not a job I want my team to be dealing with.
“The moors are very dry, despite all the rain we had at the start of the year. And there is no rain forecast in the coming days.
“We support the fire service’s call to ban controlled burning at this time, especially because of the coronavirus lockdown and a diminished workforce.
“It is also important we protect the many hundreds of thousands of pounds we have spent on moorland restoration to improve water quality, store carbon, improve homes for wildlife and reduce flood risk.”
United Utilities has already closed all its reservoirs and recreational site car parks to the public-including Dovestone.