NFCC responds to Easter wildfires

NFCC responds to Easter wildfires

THE NATIONAL Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) stated that the recent ‘spate’ of wildfires and the high profile moorland fires over the Easter weekend were a ‘stark reminder’ of the challenges.

After the fires over the Easter weekend on Ilkley Moor and Marsden Moor, the NFCC stated that these – plus the recent rise in such fires – have not only ‘devastated habitats’, but also have painted a ‘stark reminder of how quickly these types of fires can take hold’, with the ‘additional pressures’ on fire and rescue services nationwide as a consequence. The recent fire was ‘thought to have been’ started by a barbecue, with firefighters remaining on scene until at least Wednesday 24 April.

Over 100 firefighters and 12 appliances from West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service had to tackle the fires on the moors over the weekend, with over 500 acres – or 200 football pitches – of moorland destroyed at Ilkley alone. The NFCC cited the wildfires on Saddleworth Moor and Winter Hill in 2018, but noted that these recent fires were ‘earlier than expected’, and recent fires had placed demands on all fire and rescue services in a ‘worrying indicator of what may be to come’.

The NFCC noted that in response it has been ‘quickly putting in place national resilience arrangements’ to ‘ensure the right support is mobilised from across the country’, so that firefighters can ‘deal with these fires as effectively and quickly as possible’. Its national resilience team provided the support this last weekend after WYFRS requested mutual aid, with the support consisting of 10 crewed appliances, 60 firefighters, a logistics cell, burn teams and specialist wildfire advisors.

Its national resilience assurance team also provided ‘invaluable support’ and worked to the National Coordination and Advisory Framework to ‘ensure a flexible response is put in place’. A series of ‘very effective’ helicopter water drops via United Utilities aided WYFRS firefighters in preventing further fire spread, with support coming from Cumbria, Merseyside, North Yorkshire, South Yorkshire and Tyne and Wear fire and rescue services under the national arrangements.

The NFCC concluded by warning that there have also been fires in the Peak District, Cornwall, Derbyshire, Dorset, Wilshire, Rotherham, Northern Ireland and Wales, and it asked the public ‘to be careful when in the countryside during period[s] of sustained hot weather’.

Roy Wilsher, NFCC chair, stated: ‘These large-scale fires are a stark reminder as to just how quickly these type of fires take hold. It is yet another example of why fire services need to be resourced to risk, as well as demand. It is evident to see how much resource has been needed across the country to deal with these fires; last year we saw the highest number of grass fires in recent history and this pattern is being repeated, despite it being so early in the year.

‘As part of our national resilience work, we have worked around the clock to assist and support fire services dealing with these incidents. These plans will remain in place for the coming days and I would like to thank everyone for their tireless work over the past few days and Easter weekend. We reiterate time and time again the dangers of barbecues and being careless with rubbish and cigarettes. Unfortunately we have seen irreplaceable wildlife and wild areas destroyed this weekend due to irresponsible behaviour.’