One year on from the largest wildfire in England, Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service return to Bleasdale Fell to launch a campaign to make people face up to the impact of careless or intentional firesetting.

Here John Taylor explains the exercise scenario that experts including Lancashire firefighters, Jeremy Duckworth, moorland manager, Bay Search and Rescue, Environment Agency, Forestry Commission, Moorland Association personnel will encounter on May 29:

Exercise scenario

Just as would be the case during an actual wildfire, a kilometre or more of fire hose will be laid from a remote water source in the valley to reach as far as possible up the fell side.  

A temporary dam will be constructed up there to hold the water and provide a reservoir of water to fight the fire.  All-terrain vehicles, including the Bay Search and Rescue's spectacular articulated and caterpillar-tracked 'Hagglund', will carry water, firefighters - and journalists during the exercise - to the fell top.  

Pennine Helicopters have said they will participate, weather conditions permitting, in which case 'flyovers' for photography and filming of the exercise and territory at risk of wildfires will be possible.

Station Manager Shaun Walton, Service Delivery Manager for Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service and the originator of the event says,

"Preventing wildfires by education and proactive intervention is a much more effective strategy than responding to a fire, but when a wildfire does occur Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service has invested in equipment and the development of operational tactics to ensure that we extinguish it in the shortest possible time."

"We have set up the Lancashire Fire Operations Group comprised of key stakeholders - many taking part in the exercise on the 29th May - including land owners, land managers, voluntary rescue organisations and the five Fire and Rescue Services that border Lancashire.  By pooling our resources and expertise, more effective prevention and where necessary operational responses is ensured."

Members of the Moorland Association manage 90% of heather moorland remaining in England and Jeremy Duckworth, the Moorland Association's Lancashire representative and owner of Bleasdale Fell adds,

"Three quarters of the world's remaining heather moorland is found here in Britain. It is rarer than rainforest and highly protected because of all the special plants and animals that it supports largely thanks to grouse moor management. The moor has outstanding natural beauty and helps attract thousands of visitors a year to Bowland which in turn pumps vital money into our remote rural economy.

"Wildfire can destroy all of this in a matter of hours devastating important ground nesting birds, livelihoods and our treasured landscape. We applaud Lancashire Fire and Rescue's new campaign to help prevent moorland fires and are very glad to be able to facilitate their training to put out fires as quickly as possible should the worst happen."

What we're advising the public to do

• Accidental grass fires are easily started, so take care if you're smoking out in the countryside.  Extinguish cigarettes thoroughly, or better still carry a stub pouch (a pocketable anti-litter pouch) and dispose of them when you're back home.
•Don't light campfires or take disposable barbecues up onto the fells. Open fires in the countryside can get quickly out of hand.
•Stay 'fire aware' when out and about in the countryside.  If you see a fire, call 999. It could help prevent serious wildfires.
•Wildfires damage land and wildlife habitat and can have a serious impact on farmers and local tourism.
•Wildfires can have a significant financial cost to the community.  It's your countryside and your money.

Posted 23/05/2012 by richard.hook@pavpub.com