The recent hot, dry weather has been fantastic for anyone wanting to get outdoors and enjoy our hills, mountains and crags in a rare extended period of very nice weather. There's a flip side to that though, and the lack of rain has meant fire risk is high and in many areas increasing as the heatwave continues. Sadly some incredible moorland areas which will be well known to many walkers and climbers have already been affected by catastrophic fires, but what has been affected and what can you do to help?
The Tameside moor fire (near Saddleworth Moor) is at the forefront of many people’s minds at the moment, with huge areas of moorland affected and a massive firefighting effort being coordinated to get it under control. This is the latest of several significant moorland fires in the Peak District National Park this year, following on from fires in the Goyt Valley (western Peak) and on Big Moor (eastern Peak) in May.
Wild fires like this are catastrophic for wildlife, flora and importantly the peat itself which not only provides unique habitat but also important carbon and water storage. Ground nesting birds for example, many of which are already suffering a decline in numbers will be unable to move eggs and young to avoid the flames. Homes and businesses can be affected. The already meagre resources of the fire service, National Park Authorities, conservation bodies and landowners are stretched. Not to mention that from a purely selfish perspective, walking across post-apocalyptic swathes of fire affected moorland after the event is pretty depressing.
You can help!
Moorland fires are clearly something we all want to avoid, but what can we do as walkers and climbers out and about in these areas to help prevent further fires?
Report any fire you see immediately by calling 999 and giving your location. 2pm-8pm is a particularly high risk time of day and acting quickly can make a big difference to the chances of getting any fire rapidly under control.
Unfortunately malicious damage is occasionally the cause of moorland fires, so report suspicious activity you see to the emergency services whilst out on the hills and moors.
Respect any ‘high fire risk’ warning signs placed by National Park or Local Authorities – they are only placed where there is very high risk due to very dry conditions.
Leave stoves, disposable bbqs or anything else with an open flame at home as a small mistake in their use could have catastrophic consequences.
No smoking in any areas of high fire risk (notified by warning signs at access points).
Dispose of litter, particularly glass, responsibly. Take everything you bring away with you.
Be aware of updated wildfire advice promoted by organisations such as the Peak District National Park Wildfires page.
How do I find out about fire closures?
If the Fire Severity Index (FSI) reaches level 5 (exceptional risk), access closures to some open access land will come into effect. Currently, the FSI is level 4 (or ‘very high’) for most areas and there are no closures, but this could change if the current heatwave continues.
One exception to this is Barden Moor and Fell in Yorkshire, which is now closed under different legislation to CRoW due to fire risk. This affects a large area of moorland popular with walkers and climbers, including the access route to Crookrise (a BMC owned crag) amongst others.
Barden Moor and Fell is something of an anomaly, and elsewhere any closures to open access land will be widely publicised in a number of ways:
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Get all the info on crags with the newly updated RAD (Regional Access Database) app from the BMC! Available now for Android and iOS, it's free and comes with a host of new features like navigation and parking, weather and tidal updates, and of course information on restrictions or notes on access advice. Get it here now!
RAD is community led and your comments help keep it up to date so don’t be afraid to add any relevant information after a crag visit which might be useful for other visitors – anything from conditions on the crag, favourite routes or reports of rockfall/other recent changes to the crag are all useful for other climbers visiting.
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