There is a major risk of ‘catastrophic’ wildfires engulfing swathes of one of England’s main national parks, according to a new report published today (Wednesday May 18).
The research project produced for the Peak District National Park focuses on 38,860 acres of continuous moorland, centered on the scenic Derwent Valley, east of Sheffield.
The resulting report says wildfires pose a significant threat to the Peak District National Park, which attracts 13 million visitors a year and is part of the UK’s largest carbon reservoir.
In fact, he says, in the words of Professor Rob Marrs, Chairman of The Heather Trust, that “it’s not if, but when”.
The Peak District National Park 2022 Forest Fire Risk Assessment The report says these wildfires may be out of the control of fire and rescue services and are being caused by climate change.
Prolonged dry spells now occur two or three times a year on average, more than double the frequency of 100 years ago. The majority of recorded wildfires occur in April, followed by March and May.
He also found that changes in grazing regimes and limitations in vegetation management mean that the combustible complex (i.e. combustible vegetation) accumulates, but wildfires are caused by people – accidentally or with malicious intent.
Accidental ignition is a particularly high risk on the fringes of moorland close to urban areas such as Sheffield and Manchester, it found.
Anthony Barber-Lomax, one of the report’s authors, said: “This report provides the first comprehensive picture for the people who manage these lands. There is a significant risk of forest fire that would be beyond the ability of the fire and rescue service to control.
“This is particularly worrying as the moorlands of the Peak District are home to some of our rarest species such as the curlew, short-eared owl, mountain hare and merlin.
“As a society, we need to act now to address some of these risks, to protect people, property, valuable habitats and the vast stores of carbon stored in peatlands. mitigation.”
From January to April this year, there were 243 wildfires in the UK, compared to 237 for the whole of last year, according to the National Council of Fire Chiefs.
Farmers and land managers are always advised to remain vigilant for signs of fire during dry and summery periods as it can be devastating to land, people and wildlife.