UK countryside sees spate of fires over bank holiday

UK countryside sees spate of fires over bank holiday

01 May 2011

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United Kingdom — The bank holiday weekend has seen firefighters across the UK trying to prevent a spate of countryside fires from getting out of control.

Areas in north west England, Scottish Highlands, County Down in Northern Ireland and across Wales are ablaze.

The recent dry weather has been blamed for the spread of the fires.

The Met Office said the current weather would continue, and that it was advising firefighters on the wind strength and direction.

Heath fires spread incredibly quickly, killing wildlife and destroying buildings.

The flames travel through grass, bushes, trees, gorse, undergrowth and farm crops.

In Lancashire, fire chiefs are warning people to be vigilant after three fires broke out in the region.

On Sunday, up to 100 firefighters were continuing their three day battle to control a fire on moorland in east Lancashire.

The blaze is covering several square miles between Bolton and Chorley, on both Anglezarke Moor and Wheeton Moor.

A second fire broke out on peat at Whitemoss Horticulture at Simonswood near Ormskirk, west Lancashire, on Saturday, while a third fire in the region, at Moor Wind Farm in Stacksteads, near Bacup, started on Sunday afternoon and is being tackled by fire crews.

The blaze is said to stretch around 1km (0.6 miles) and water is being pumped from a nearby reservoir.

Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service said blustery easterly winds were making working conditions difficult as crews attempted to limit the spread of the fire before nightfall.

Deputy chief fire officer Paul Richardson said: “We are advising members of the public who are out on the moors during this period of hot and dry weather to take extra care and be vigilant.

“With strong winds, fires can move across the moors quickly, putting walkers in danger without giving them any warning.”

In Scotland, fire crews have had to use a helicopter to drop water on a heath fire that is threatening properties near Torridon.

Two other heath fires, in Dundonald and Lochaber, have also broken out.

In Cumbria, moorland covering about 50 acres (20 hectares) was ablaze.

Land on both Anglezarke Moor and Wheeton Moor has been on fire since Friday

‘Biggest ever’ fire

In Northern Ireland, people have been warned not to walk or camp in the Mourne Mountains as firefighters attempt to contain several “ferocious” gorse fires, which are believed to have been started deliberately.

Police in Omagh, County Tyrone, are asking people to avoid certain areas which have been closed due to gorse fires.

Part of the A505, which is one of the main routes out of the town, has been closed as has Gorchin Forest Park. Lenimore Road, about 10 miles (16km) outside the town, is being evacuated.

John Allen of Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue said of the country’s 68 fire stations, 60 were involved in the fight against gorse fires.

He said the fire in the Mournes was one of the “biggest ever seen here” and they did not have the resources to put it out and maintain an acceptable level of cover elsewhere in Northern Ireland.

They are hoping for rain and that it will burn itself out.

And in Wales, firefighters have been tackling a large forest fire in Gwynedd, and South Wales Fire and Rescue dealt with seven grassland fires on Saturday.

Glyn Jones from North Wales Fire and Rescue Service said: “We would urge anyone enjoying the countryside over this bank holiday weekend to take great care.

“There has been little rain recently and the ground is very dry so it is extremely easy to cause a fire with a discarded cigarette or an unattended campfire for example.

“Fires like this place a tremendous pressure on our resources for considerable lengths of time, put the safety of firefighters and the public at risk and cause considerable damage to the environment.”

Natural England said this time of year was always particularly bad.

A spokesman said once a fire started, it could spread quickly in upland and heath areas as they were very dry, causing distress for nestling birds.

A spokesman for the Met Office said 2011 had been the driest March for 50 years and that April was looking to follow suit.

He said current winds would ease off later on Sunday evening, which would help to calm the fires down.

Tips to reduce heath fires

  • Extinguish cigarettes properly and don’t throw cigarette ends on the ground
  • Avoid using open fires in the countryside
  • Don’t leave bottles or glass in woodland – sunlight shining through glass can start fires
  • Only use barbecues in a suitable and safe area and never leave them unattended
  • If you see a fire in the countryside, report it to the Fire and Rescue Service immediately
  • Don’t attempt to tackle fires that can’t be put out with a bucket of water – leave the area as quickly as possible


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