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Our work to protect Marsden Moor from fires

Aerial view of Marsden Moor Estate, West Yorkshire
Aerial view of Marsden Moor | © National Trust Images/Chris Lacey

After a series of devastating fires, we’ve been working hard to restore the landscape on Marsden Moor and prevent future fires. But there’s still more work to be done to reduce the fire risk, protect wildlife and restore peat bogs. Find out what we're doing to repair the damage to the moorland and what you can do to help.

The damage caused

Fires on Marsden Moor in recent years have caused widespread devastation to this special landscape.

The biggest fire, in April 2019, damaged 700 hectares of moorland and took four days to put out. It’s estimated that it caused £500,000 worth of damage.

National Trust rangers worked closely with West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service and others to tackle the fires on the moor.

The cost to the environment

Marsden Moor is designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest, a Special Protection Area and Special Area of Conservation due to the ground-nesting bird population and blanket bog habitat. It’s really important to protect this.

A helicopter flies low over a moor on fire. It drops water on the flames.
Helicopters are used to help fight major fires on Marsden Moor | © National Trust/Victoria Holland

Although it looks like the moors recover quickly, the damage is deep and long lasting. The moor loses its diverse range of plants which help to support the rare birds and mountain hares that live there.

Another great concern is the important peat soils which have been scorched and destroyed. The peat is the front front line in the battle against climate change and will take hundreds, if not thousands of years to recover.

Repairing the damage

Our ongoing work to restore and re-wet the moorland is making a difference. After each fire we;

  • Plant thousands of sphagnum moss plants to help re-wet the moor and improve its resilience to future fires.
  • Replace important firefighting equipment, such as specialist vehicles and beaters.
  • Replace and repair fences and stiles that were damaged in the fires.
  • Build leaky dams that help slow the flow of water and reduce the spread of fires.
A volunteer uses binoculars to look over Marsden Moor on a sunny day
Rangers and volunteers help us patrol the moors during sunny weather. | © National Trust/Tom Harman

What we’re doing to prevent fires in the future

Repairing the devastation caused by the recent fires is only part of the story. We also need help from the public to reduce the risk of fires. In 2021, we set up a community fire watch group, where volunteers help us patrol the moors on warm evenings and weekends. Together, they've stopped dozens of potential fires, as well as calling 999 when spotting moorland fires in the early stages.

Alongside this, we have also been;

  • Running a joint campaign with West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue to encourage people to #bemooraware of the risks of moorland fires. This includes putting up signs and spreading the word on social media.
  • Helping local councils enforce an order banning barbecues and open fires on the moors during the summer. (PSPO)
  • Regularly attending the Peak District and South Pennines Fire Operation Groups to share best practice.
  • Working closely with West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue to undertake joint moorland fire training operations and to share local knowledge.
  • Training rangers every year to use firefighting equipment so we're ready to help the fire service if required.
  • Keeping a moorland fire plan which enables us to call for the use of a helicopter to help put out fires.
  • Regularly patrolling the moors, particularly busy sites.

What you can do to help

The risk of fires is particularly high when there are prolonged periods of dry weather or when there’s a drought, but fires can happen at any time of year. Here’s how you can help:

  • If you see a fire or someone using a barbecue on Marsden Moor, please dial 999.
  • Remember that fires, barbecues, fireworks and sky lanterns are banned on Marsden Moor all year round.
  • Please dispose of cigarettes responsibly.
  • Don't forget to take all your litter home, as discarded bottles can cause fires.

Want to join our community fire watch? We are always looking for people who can help us patrol the moors. Email for more information.

Purple heather blooming on Marsden Moor, West Yorkshire.


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