Cost of moor fires response could be over £62,000

Cost of moor fires response could be over £62,000

WEST YORKSHIRE Fire and Rescue Service (WYFRS) and the West Yorkshire Fire Authority (WYFA) have estimated that response and support for moorland fires could cost ‘well over’ £62,000.

Wharfdale Observer reported on the financial cost to WYFRS and WYFA in dealing with the fires earlier this year on Ilkley and Marsden moors, with the former seeing 15 appliances fighting the fire at its height. The WYFA community safety committee is set to discuss the fires this week, with that fire so ‘deep into’ the moor that firefighters could not extinguish it until they ‘were able to get right on top of it and drive firefighting jets deep into the ground’.

The fire saw crews remain at the scene for four days, and required 10 appliances from five different forces to be deployed in support, including Tyne and Wear, Cumbria, Merseyside, North Yorkshire and South Yorkshire, while a Merseyside firefighter suffered burns. While still at Ilkley, crews then had to respond to a moor fire in Marsden requiring 15 appliances, with an area 5km by 5km on fire at the height of the blaze, and firefighters on scene for ‘over a week’.

Adding to the pressure on crews and services, another fire on a neighbouring part of the moor in Marsden took hold at the same time, which required 11 crews to tackle it. The committee will hear the cost to the taxpayer from the incidents, and while WYFRS has yet to receive invoices from assisting forces, WYFA stated: ‘An appliance with a Watch Commander and four Firefighters would cost £5,172 so an indicative cost for the ten appliances, and one support crew, would be around £62,000.’

In addition, around £3,800 worth of equipment was damaged in the fires and will need to be replaced, with the report outlining the ‘pressures faced’ by WYFRS in handling the three major incidents concurrently. The Ilkley Moor investigation has seen three arrests, with Mohammed Zulkifl pleading guilty to committing arson and set to be sentenced soon, and told to expect a ‘substantial sentence of imprisonment’.

The main Marsden fire investigation found that it was ‘believed to have been caused by a disposable BBQ’, as a ‘family enjoying a day out on the moors did report that one of their children accidentally kicked over the BBQ they had been cooking on. They did make attempts to extinguish the fire but unfortunately it quickly caught hold. They also made several 999 calls to ensure we were mobilised to the incident. On this occasion the police took the decision not to press charges’.

With the second Marsden blaze, this was ‘thought to have been started deliberately’, though ‘as of yet no arrests have been made’, the report concluding on all three fires: ‘What was particularly disappointing was the unnecessary nature of these incidents, whether they were caused deliberately or accidentally.

‘Whilst our crews were dealing with these incidents, members of the public were still going up on the moors and people were still seen to be using BBQs despite the fact they could see a major fire. The damage caused to the moors and its wildlife will take potentially decades to repair. We will all be acutely aware of the challenges brought about by climate change and the conditions which saw the rapid escalation of these incidents will not be going away.’

As a consequence, a public space protection order was implemented in Bradford banning barbecues, bonfires and Chinese lanterns from the moors in the district, while a ‘major awareness campaign’ has been undertaken to warn the public about the dangers of moorland fires.