Firefighters battle a Peak District wildfire in 2019. Photo: West Yorkshire Fire & Rescue Service

Firefighters battle a Peak District wildfire in 2019. Photo: West Yorkshire Fire & Rescue Service

A national park boss has called for a halt to moorland burning while the coronavirus crisis puts extra strain on emergency services.

Peak District National Park Authority chief executive Sarah Fowler said the Moorland Association supports a suspension.

The call came after a major wildfire on the northern fringe of the national park earlier this week, during which West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service committed 20 fire appliances to battle the blaze, which they said was the result of planned moorland burning getting out of control.

A Peak District national park spokesperson said: “The call comes as a period of dry weather and unseasonably mild temperatures has increased the fire risk in parts of the national park.

“Regional fire and rescue services and gamekeepers have already responded to a number of fires involving moorland and other vegetation in recent days, with one blaze stretching along a fire line of over a mile.”

Ms Fowler said: “At a time when our emergency services are already under enormous strain as a result of Covid-19, it is vital that we do not add to this pressure.

“The Moorland Association who represent many of our upland land managers, has already advised its members of the current wildfire risks and associated implications under Covid-19 restrictions and support a suspension of heather burning and to use cutting instead.

“At this time it is not acceptable that emergency services be drawn away to deal with otherwise avoidable incidents, as well as the damage that uncontrolled fires can have on the important habitats of our Peak District uplands – at a time when many wildlife species are at the beginning of their breeding season.

“With these services already stretched, we cannot expect our fire crews to attend incidents that are putting their teams in close proximity to each other, as well as the risk placed on moorland managers not being able to heed the need for social distancing, and taking fire crews to often remote locations.

“Our focus must rightly be on supporting the coronavirus response for all our local communities.

“This comes alongside our call yesterday for visitors to stay away from the Peak District to adhere to government restrictions to stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives. Individual actions now will make a crucial differences in the weeks ahead.”

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