Top ten failures of 2021 from Wild Justice and friends - Day Seven
Wildfires are tragically becoming a more and more serious concern in Britain, increasing in both frequency and devastation. The 2018 blaze on RSPB-controlled Saddleworth Moor, for instance, was described as the worst wildfire in living memory, razing some 1,800ha of beautiful moorland and exposing some 5 million people to toxic levels of pollution.
Despite the threat posed by these fires some public landowners, including the National Trust, have stuck to their dogma of opposing controlled heather burning. Instead, they have opted for a technique known as rewetting. Rewetting is also practiced by moorland managers, however it is recognised that it cannot be used in isolation as an effective tool, and must be part of a broader arsenal of tools, including controlled burning. This is the advice of every fire service in the world.
The results of this policy were plain to see this April when yet more beautiful moorland went up in flames, this time at National Trust owned Marsden Moor in the Peak District.
Thankfully no one was hurt in the fire, but the flames did engulf some 700ha of heather moorland. They also blew toxic smoke and particulate matter into nearby towns, including Huddersfield.
The fire was eventually put out by gamekeepers and local farmers.
Jo Hilton-Jones, a public health manager for Kirklees Council warned of the danger of this smoke in a tweet, telling her followers in the area to “take care if you have breathing problems”.
Smoke from wildfires is a serious problem, causing 339,000 premature deaths globally each year. In Huddersfield, which already has the third highest levels of air pollution related deaths in West Yorkshire, the moors are literally choking the local residents, when they should be providing a much-needed source of fresh air.
[Burnt out timbers which had been relied upon as part of the NT's rewetting technique]
By insisting on ineffective fire prevention techniques, the National Trust is creating a public health disaster for local residents. With the impact of climate change wildfires are set to become more common in the future. When the likely public deaths from these increased wildfire do occur, the National Trust will almost certainly be facing corporate manslaughter charges.