Peat bog will take years to recover from fire

Peat bog will take years to recover from fire

06 May 2011

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United Kingdom — AN ANCIENT Welsh peat bog which is home to rare birds was under threat last night after a mile-long fire tore through a national park.

Nearly 2,000 acres of ancient upland common and peat bog in Brecon Beacons National Park have been severely damaged in what wardens are calling the worst heathland blaze in 30 years.

For three days wardens from Brecon Beacons National Park Authority and fire crews have been battling a “catastrophic fire” between Trapp, Brynamman and Llandeilo. They said it had caused severe damage to one of the park’s most important protected sites, which is a habitat for skylarks, merlins and red grouse, and also acts as a carbon sink.

Paul Sinnadurai, ecologist and senior policy adviser for the park authority, said: “This site was one of our most important heather moorland habitats and this fire has had an utterly devastating effect.

“The fire has burned with such intensity that it has reached down into carbon-rich peat bog, so the long-term effects of this are immeasurable – it could very well take years to recover.

“When peat bog is damaged in this way it reduces its capacity to hold water, releases carbon and increases surface water run-off, flood risk and causes erosion problems in the future.”

The situation took a dramatic turn for the worse on Wednesday evening with a sudden change of wind and military assistance was requested to help tackle the blaze.

Thick plumes of smoke could be seen as far away as Llandeilo as the fire broke into seven fronts.

Although the fire had not yet been fully contained by last night, crews said the situation was improving with continued assistance from fire crews and the military.

Judith Harvey, western area warden for Brecon Beacons National Park Authority, said that the fire was not threatening any properties but was the worst heathland fire she’d seen in more than 30 years.

She added: “We have been fortunate enough to have the support of Brecon Carreg Water, who’ve offered us an unlimited supply of water, but the only way of attacking the mile-long fire front was with quad bikes and water bowsers, which was time-consuming and problematic.”

Meanwhile, a number of new fires broke out across the UK and Wales yesterday, including a blaze covering four hectares of land at Llwynypia in the Rhondda Valley.

About 35 firefighters were dealing with a gorse fire stretching across a quarter of a mile at Moel y Gest, near Morfa Bychan, Porthmadog, Gwynedd.

Fire crews have dealt with more than 300 grass and gorse fires across Wales since May 1. Many of them were started deliberately.

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