Fires cause heartbreak and despair

Tuesday 3rd July 2018

Devastation on the dunes by Amy PenningtonDevastation on the dunes by Amy Pennington

It’s been a heartbreaking couple of weeks, with fires devastating huge areas of moorland, dunes and our reserves.

And our message is that people should be careful when starting fires for barbecues or dropping litter in the countrysideWinter Hill by Alan WrightFailing to put out a fire or barbecue can cause problems and littered bottles can act like magnifying glasses creating fires.

Thousands of hectares were damaged at Saddleworth Moor and fire services from all over the North have been helping, along with the army and the police force.

A couple of big fires joined together at Winter Hill and fire services again were supported by the police, volunteers and United Utilities damp down and try to douse the flames.

Both these incidents involve the fire getting deep into the peat and they will need to be damped down for some weeks to come.

And we cannot measure the devastating loss of wildlife caused by the fires, but we are certain that fledgling birds, small mammals and insects will have perished.

Equally tragic were the three fires at our Wigan Flashes nature reserve, all presumed to be arson. Each one of these fires killed wildlife and endangered our staff, volunteers and the local fire service.

Reserve officer Sue Lonsdale said: “The heathland near Moss Bridge is ruined for this year, one of the best habitats for bees and other pollinators on the site. Grasslands at the back of Pearson’s have been decimated. Three toads, a hawk

Each one of these fires killed wildlife and endangered our staff, volunteers and the local fire service

moth and a wood mouse were all seen escaping the flames. This is catastrophic for our wildlife, dangerous for people and dogs, and a waste of time for local firefighters, who quite simply have enough on their plates right now.”

On Saturday afternoon a serious fire started on the dune grasslands on our Local Nature Reserve in St Anne’s. Dunes Officer Amy Pennington said: “Thanks to amazing efforts by the fire brigade the fire was controlled and extinguished within a few hours, however, we estimate that 20 per cent of the site's wildlife habitat has been lost. This is a Site of Special Scientific Interest and the loss of wildlife is tragic.”

We are asking visitors to the dunes, moors and other vulnerable areas to take care and think of the wildlife. Please do not leave glass bottles lying on the ground as sunlight shining through them can cause fires. Put out cigarettes, matches and barbecues before disposal. Do not barbecue on any grassed area as it is dangerous.

If you see anyone deliberately lighting a fire report it to the police and fire service immediately.

This is about the safety of people, wildlife and means that we must start from scratch in creating safe and suitable habitats in the future.