Forest fires continue to burn across UK

Forest fires continue to burn across UK

04 May 2011

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United Kingdom — Blazes continue to burn in parts of the Scottish Highlands, Wales, Berkshire, Lancashire and Yorkshire.

Fire crews in Northern Ireland have responded to more than 1,000 gorse and forestry fires over the past four days.

Police investigating a forest fire at Swinley, Berkshire, have arrested two youths on suspicion of starting fires.

During Prime Minister’s Questions, David Cameron praised firefighters for their work “in this difficult endeavour”.

Responding to a question from Dr Phillip Lee, Conservative MP for Bracknell, Mr Cameron insisted funds would be made available to pay for the cost of the firefighting operation.

“There are well tried and tested procedures to make sure that central government stands behind local government when there are excessive costs,” he said.
Changing situation

The UK has seen only 52% of the usual April rainfall, and weather forecasters say there is little chance of rain before Thursday.

The situation around the country is rapidly changing as firefighters beat out flames, and other fires are started.

  • In Mytholmroyd, West Yorkshire, fire crews have been tackling a moor fire which started on Tuesday and burned across 1.5 sq kms of land. A helicopter helped douse the flames with water from a reservoir and crews used small jets, back packs and beaters to put the fire out, which is now smouldering.
  • Nearby, in Wainstalls, West Yorkshire, firefighters have had to dig into the ground before putting water on the fire as it is deep-seated in peat. The fire, which started on Monday and spread over around 1sq km, is said to be under control.
  • In the south, there have been fires in Dorset. One heath fire in Wareham Forest on Tuesday night is believed to be malicious, according to the fire service. Fire crews are still at the scene of another, reported on Wednesday afternoon at Canford Heath, near Poole. Its cause is unknown.
  • In south Wales, hundreds of acres of the Brecon Beacons National Park have been destroyed. Head warden Judith Harvey said there had been many fires in the past three weeks but the latest were burning away some of the best habitat, including heather moorland, bilberry and crowberry. “It’s a really devastating scene,” she said.
  • In Lancashire, firefighters are now into their sixth day spent trying to put out fires which have destroyed moorland and woodland near Belmont. Many worked through the night as colleagues took on another moor fire near Ormskirk. Experts have been assessing the environmental impact and fear some areas could take decades to recover.
  • The unusually warm weather has also affected parts of Scotland. The royal family’s Balmoral Estate, where the Queen traditionally spends her summer break, was not immune as fire took hold across a large area of heather and gorse. Highlands and Islands Fire and Rescue Service said there was “a continuing severe risk of further fires occurring” as they turned their attention to fires in Inverkirkaig and Lochailort.
  • In Northern Ireland, there have been fires in County Down, Tyrone and Armagh, several of which are thought to have been started by arsonists.

NI Water has urged the public to avoid walking in the Mourne Mountains while the dry conditions persist.

Water from the Mournes runs into Ben Crom and Silent Valley reservoirs.
‘Ruining scenery’

Dymphna Gallagher, from NI Water, said: “It is unfortunate that these fires are ruining the beautiful scenery and the quality of raw water flowing into the Silent Valley reservoir. Years of work building up this area have been destroyed in a few short days.”

The Met Office said April was the hottest on record, with many areas of the UK seeing temperatures 3-5C higher than usual. It was the 11th driest April on record.

England and Wales have experienced only 21% of its average monthly rainfall for the month and south-east England has been particularly dry.

But despite the dry weather the Environment Agency said it had no plans to introduce a hosepipe ban this summer.

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