Thursday, 25 July 2013

Peak District Fire Operations Group

After the heatwave that’s engulfed the UK this month, this week’s downpour has been a welcome sight as far as the ranger team are concerned.
You might have seen the “High Fire Risk” signs up at the Knott, on Park Moor, and Cluse Hey. We only put these up when conditions are dry enough to warrant a fire warning, and they’ve been up for the last three weeks.  So, I’m sure you can imagine why we were so relieved to see the rain return to Lyme Park this week with such conviction.
We don’t just rely on the occasional rain dance to reduce the risk of wildfire though. We’re proud to be a part of the Peak District FOG, or Fire Operations Group. This group consists of a collaboration of six fire services, various ranger teams, gamekeepers, water companies, landowners, and a local helicopter company, and aims to prevent and when necessary, combine forces to tackle moorland fires.
The Peak District FOG is the first of its kind in the UK, and is being replicated in various counties and national parks around the country. The group formed in 1996 after a serious moorland blaze to draw up site specific fire plans, to educate people on the risks posed by moorland fires, and to train staff to be able to deal with fires should they arise. Another key part of the FOG is to share resources including radio communication, local knowledge, and specialist firefighting equipment.
By pooling resources in this way, the fire services can call upon units which use ATV (all terrain vehicles) which can access remote areas which can otherwise be extremely difficult to reach. When time is of the essence, access to the correct equipment can be a huge advantage in tackling moorland and grassland fires.  Centaur 8WD vehicles, Unimogs, and tracked vehicles such as Softtracks, along with a number of specialist mobile water bowsers and portable reservoirs can be used to speed up the process of getting water to the fire site as quickly as possible. And if deemed necessary, the FOG can call on Pennine Heliopters, a company based in Saddleworth which has years of experience in dealing with fires in the Peak District.
Long term damage
As well as the obvious threats that a wildfire can pose to visitors, they can also have a hugely damaging effect on the ecological value of the estate. Fire can cause disastrous damage to vegetation and wildlife, including ground nesting birds, along with sheep and cattle.  
How can you help?
The earlier a fire is reported, the less damage it has the potential to unleash; so if you see an open fire anywhere in the park, please dial 999 immediately to notify the Fire Service and notify a member of staff as soon as possible. When speaking to the fire service, please specify that it is a "Moorland fire". 
The most common causes of wildfires are arson, discarded cigarettes, barbeques and campfires. You can help to make sure you don’t run the risk of starting an accidental fire by ensuring that you barbecue in the Knott quarry area, our designated barbecue site, and by making sure that the barbecue is disposed of safely.
The ranger team and our volunteer patrollers will keep an extra close lookout for any signs of fires over the upcoming months. As Lyme Park consists of over 1400 acres, our visitors often see parts the far reaches of the park that we don’t always see on a daily basis. For this reason, we’d really appreciate it if you could remain vigilant while you’re out and about exploring the estate.