Firefighters tackle a moorland fireLandowners in North Yorkshire are being asked to draw up plans to help fight moorland fires.

Firefighters tackle a moorland fire

Moors landlords will be asked to provide details of water sources, access roads and rendezvous points to be used when fires break out. The plans are being drawn up by the newly formed North Yorkshire Dales Wildfire Group.

Recent wildfires in and around the Yorkshire Dales national park have devastated large areas and had an effect on rare wildlife.

The new group is made up of the national park authority, North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service, the Nidderdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and the Moorland Association.

Trevor Lund, the fire service’s group manager for Richmondshire, said the idea for the organisation followed the disastrous week-long fire in 2007 that destroyed hundreds of acres of Ilkley Moor, just south of the Yorkshire Dales park.

“The need for such a group has been further highlighted by the recent fire on Grassington Moor,” he said.

“The aim of the group is to create a series of moorland fire plans.

“We want to build a strong network that encourages collaboration and cooperation and allows rural communities to take an active role in protecting their environment and the economy from the effects of wildfires.

“Initially, each large landowner will produce a map of their land containing information needed by the fire brigade, like easy access points for vehicles, water sources and availability of equipment. It will also have on it a point at which we could rendezvous if there was a fire.”

Adrian Thornton-Berry of the Moorland Association, the landowners’ group, said 75 per cent of the world's remaining heather moorland was found in Britain.

“These areas play an important role in the local economy by providing employment and a pull for tourists and they are a crucial haven for ground nesting birds,” he said.

“The fire plans are a positive step forward in helping to protect these fragile habitats.”

The wildfire group will also publicise the risks upland fires pose to wildlife and the best ways of preventing fires starting.

Alan Hulme, Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority ranger-services manager, said: “It is hugely encouraging to see the different parties around the table all working towards a common purpose.

“The uplands of the Yorkshire Dales national park may store an estimated 8.5 million to 10.5 million tonnes of carbon. Some of it would be released every time there is a fire, which would obviously have worrying consequences in the light of climate change.”

Open access land is closed to the public when the fire risk becomes exceptional.