Moorland fires are most frequent in the spring and summer, and can be started deliberately or accidentally by a discarded cigarette, sun shining through a glass bottle or a barbeque. They can spread rapidly, especially in windy weather, and can continue burning for several days.
Peat contains large stores of carbon so if a fire burns down through the vegetation layer and into the peat it can continue to burn and spread underground. Uncontrolled fires can cause a lot of damage to these sensitive habitats, destroying plants, displacing ground-nesting birds and damaging the peat.
In March 2011 there was a large moorland fire on Close Moss which covered over 1,000 acres and continued burning for more than 24 hours. Although the fire site looked quite green again a couple of months later this was mainly due to the re-growth of purple moor grass, a dominant moorland grass that can out-compete dwarf shrubs and reduce the diversity of the moorland vegetation. Ecological surveys carried out after the fire showed there had been significant damage to the ecosystem, and indicated that it would take at least 10 years to repair the damage caused by the fire.
At Marsden Moor our staff and volunteers are trained to help fight moorland fires and we have a selection of fire-fighting equipment, so we can assist the fire service if there is a moorland fire. We are also part of the local Fire Operations Groups, which are partnerships of organisations and landowners who work together to raise awareness and respond to moorland fires.
Please take care when you are out and about during the summer months to reduce the risk of an accidental fire. If you see a moorland fire whilst you are out on Marsden Moor please report it to the Emergency Service as soon as possible.