July 6, 2008

Dales Fire Watch Network Set Up to Reduce Risk of Summer Blazes

A FIRE watch is to be mounted in the Yorkshire Dales in an attempt to reduce the devastating damage and loss of wildlife caused by summer blazes in and around the national park.

The new North Yorkshire Dales Wildfire Group is encouraging landowners to draw up plans they hope will reduce the severe impact of such incidents on the internationally important moorland.

Firefighters have teamed up with national park officers and members of the Nidderdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and the Moorland Association to form the new organisation.

Trevor Lund, North Yorkshire fire service's group manager for Richmondshire, said the idea partly followed the disastrous week- long fire in 2007 that destroyed hundreds of acres of Ilkley Moor.

He added: "The need for such a group has been further highlighted by the recent fire on Grassington Moor. 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 service, such as easy access points for vehicles and water sources.

A publicity campaign by the group will also remind visitors how they can help reduce the risk of summer fires and explain the dangers they pose to wildlife.

Adrian Thornton-Berry, of the Moorland Association, underlined that 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. The fire plans are a positive step forward in helping to protect these fragile habitats," he added.

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."

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