Will you join us? Fire rangers call for ‘smoke scouts’

FLAG cracking temperatures and lack of rainfall have contributed to challenging times for those charged with protecting the stunning Saddleworth scenery from unnecessary harm.

After a relatively period through Spring, Dovestone Reservoir and neighbouring Yeoman Hey and Chew reservoirs have been the focus of unwanted headlines.

Fires, started accidentally or otherwise, have seen emergency services in regular attendance.

Dovestone fire July 2022

Warnings for sun seekers not to swim or cool off in the icy waters are regularly ignored by visitors oblivious to the dangers.

So it’s been a busy time recently for new RSPB fire rangers Will Rowley and Corrie Porter-Young with support from part-time worker James Minchin.

While roles have been made possible by a grant from the Nature for Climate Fund launched by the Government at the start of the year, they need extra help.

That’s why the RSPB is appealing for volunteers to form an early warning system to help spot and report moorland fires.

“It is a big site so the more people who can help out the better,” said Will, who was previously employed in a similar position with Calderdale Council.

“I also did a lot of voluntary work for the RSPB here so I know how important the work is that is being done on the (peat) bogs and how important it is to protect the area,” he said,

“All the good work can be undone in an instance. So, something needs to be done to prevent these images of the wild fires happening again.”

“The Rangers are deployed at peak times when visitor numbers are high.

“A lot of the role is engaging with the public, informing them what they can and can’t do. And why that is.”

The Rangers adopt a non-confrontational approach to visitors, some who don’t always welcome the friendly advice.

“I have not had that much abuse,” said Will. “Most people are very understanding when we try to explain why the rules are in place.”

The new volunteers will be deployed on higher parts of the moors, sitting in prominent places (sometimes as a pair), looking for smoke or flames and then reporting to the Fire Service via 999.

“The sooner we can get the emergency services out the better and so less damage is done,” said Kate Hanley, the RSPB’s Dovestone site manager.

Any potential volunteers, who won’t be asked to fight fires, can ask for more information by emailing corrie.porteryoung@rspb.org

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