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Concerns raised over management of Marsden Moor, after the third wildfire this year

As sure as night follows day, as soon as the sun begins to shine, vegetation begins to dry out, and people start venturing out into the great outdoors in larger numbers, wildfire cases begin to creep up and up. Just before the weekend, a wildfire tore through Fen Bog, managed by the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust. As a result the North Yorkshire Moors Railway which runs through the North York Moors has suspended its steam services “until further notice”.

A smouldering disposable barbecue and rubbish was also left on moorland in the Bradford district last week and fire crews from Malton attended a bracken fire in the Elleron Lake area of Pickering on 29 May which was caused by a carelessly discarded barbecue and spread to an area measuring around 25 square metres.

Earlier on in the week, the National Trust’s Marsden Moor was ignited once more by a wildfire, with vast areas of the moor ripped through by fire. Gamekeepers and farmers stayed through the night to extinguish the flames, when National Trust staff had left.

At the end of April, two significant blazes ripped through the area closing roads and requiring a huge emergency services response.

Marsden Moor is managed by the National Trust, who do not practice prescribed burning on their land – one of the most important tools in a moorland land managers' toolbox when it comes to preventing wildfires.

Last year saw at least 24,316 wildfires recorded by fire services in England from June to August, almost four times the number reported in summer 2021 and the highest for this period in at least a decade.

With temperatures and weather patterns changing, conditions for wildfires are improving, meaning that we need to work to mitigate them in advance. This can be done through creating fire breaks, removing excess vegetation from the moors which provides a fuel load for burns – and of course making the public who access the moors aware of the dangers of wildfires and what can spark them.

A recent critical review of Carbon storage and sequestration by habitat: a review of the evidence (second edition)” by Gregg et al., 2021, stated that "we are especially concerned about the misrepresentation of the evidence relating to prescribed fire impacts on blanket bog ecosystems and net ecosystem carbon budgets (NECB). In the UK, prescribed fire is primarily used for grouse moor management. Consequently, it has become a contentious and controversial topic of debate in the public, academic and policymaking arena. In contrast, outside the UK, prescribed fire is considered a valuable habitat and vegetation management tool, especially for reducing fuel loads and, thereby, wildfire risk and damage."


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