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WATCH: Askwith moor fire "out of control on Saturday" - Natural England urged to stop grouse moor burning for shooting

WATCH: Askwith moor fire "out of control on Saturday" - Natural England urged to stop grouse moor burning for shooting

Published by The Stray FM News Team at 1:15pm 21st February 2019.

Natural England is facing calls to block moorland burning on Askwith moor, near Otley, after emergency services responded to a fire on Saturday.

  • The fire service attended a blaze on Askwith moor, near Otley, that gamekeepers started as "controlled burning" to boost grouse populations for shooting
  • But winds meant the fire got out of control, with gamekeepers advised to extinguish the blaze under supervision from crews
  • Now, Ban Bloodsports on Yorkshire's Moors is calling on Natural England to ban the moorland burning practice on Askwith moor, saying it harms wildlife, the environment, and causes disruption to local communities

Gamekeepers had been burning vegetation on the moor to boost grouse populations for shooting when the fire got out of control.

Large plumes of smoke could be seen in the area.

One driver on Askwith Moor Road reported unsafe conditions after smoke left him unable to see the road ahead.

A spokesperson from North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue said:

"A crew from Harrogate were called to a report of a fire in the open.

"This was controlled burning that had become out of control.

"Due to the windy weather conditions and the size of the fire crews gave advice to extinguish this fire and supervised this whilst the owner extinguished.

"No action was taken by the fire service."

Ban Bloodsports on Yorkshire’s Moors is now urging Natural England to issue the moor’s owners with orders to stop heather burning because of the negative impact on the environment, wildlife and local communities.

Plumes of smoke could be seen in the area

Luke Steele, Spokesperson for Ban Bloodsports on Yorkshire’s Moors, said:

“Burning on grouse shooting estates is extremely damaging to both wildlife and the environment and disrupts otherwise peaceful life in local communities.

"It is concerning that gamekeepers on Askwith Moor lost control of a fire they deliberately started, resulting in the fire brigade being drawn away from other emergency situations to deal with it."

Askwith Moor fire
The fire service intervened after the blaze got out of control

He added:

“There is a real risk the practice - along with the damage and disruption it brings - will continue for some months to come until the ‘burning season’ ends in mid-April.

"We urge Natural England to intervene as a matter of urgency to block any further heather burning on Askwith Moor.”

Grouse moor burning has been widely condemned by conservation organisations, including the RSPB, because wildlife and the environment are seriously harmed by the practice.

Askwith Moor following the burning
Askwith Moor following the burning

BBYM says sensitive peatland is degraded, watercourses polluted and threatened breeding birds - such as dunlin, merlin and hen harrier - can no longer make the damaged moorland habitat their home.

Environment Secretary, Michael Gove MP, has called on moorland-owners to show restraint by not performing burning over blanket bog and sign up to the government’s moratorium on the practice.

BBYM added early indications from the ongoing burning season show that grouse shooting estates across Yorkshire are not complying with the Minister’s request.

A Natural England spokesperson said:

"We recognise the important contribution that moorland owners make to the restoration of blanket bog habitats and we will continue to work collaboratively with landowners, land managers and other stakeholders to achieve this.

“We have been working with the Moorland Association and others over the last 12 months to reach long term voluntary agreements on how bogs are managed within the framework of the legislation that protects these important sites.

"Consents for burning are issued only exceptionally, where it is necessary for site restoration.”