Moorland fires

This long spell of hot weather is almost unprecedented, and whilst we are all enjoying the sunshine, the plumes of smoke from our hillsides are a stark reminder of the dangers of such dryness.

I thank all of the Fire Service, Mountain Rescue teams, the army, police, rangers and gamekeepers who have courageously battled the huge fire at Saddleworth Moor.

Their dedication around the clock has prevented the fires spreading to populated areas and we must all be grateful.

But it has left our fire services extremely stretched when fire risk is very high and we have seen a large number of fires breaking out across High Peak.  It has sometimes taken longer than usual for our local crews to reach these fires as our firefighters are spending so much time at Saddleworth.

Basic fire precautions now are even more important for us all – not making fires in the countryside, picking up our litter, and making sure barbeques and garden fires are completely extinguished.

For my part I want to make sure that our fire crews have all the resources they need to tackle wildfires.  Our easterly winds which led to both the ‘Beast from the East’ and this very hot dry weather could well be more frequent in future due to global warming.  So we need to be prepared.

However, cuts at Glossop Fire Station were voted through a few months ago.  Glossop crews are responsible for a wide area of moorland and I’ve asked the Chief Executive of Derbyshire Fire & Rescue to revisit that decision in light of this summer’s fires.

I’m also calling on the government to ensure that our fire service have sufficient resources from a national level as Derbyshire’s fire service have 80 fewer firefighters than in 2010 and are due for further cuts of £2.5m by 2020 – 16% of their grant.  Nationally, we have 10,000 fewer firefighters, leaving our fire service less able to respond to increased fires around the country so I will continue to support the Fire Brigades Union in their campaign against funding cuts.

Helicopters are very important in preventing moorland fires from spreading and the RAF have assisted in the past.  I have asked Government Ministers why RAF helicopters were not deployed to fight these fires, and whether the helicopters’ firefighting apparatus has been sold-off.

I have also written to the company who organised the LightsFest mass sky lantern release at Buxton Raceway to ask them to cancel the event in the light of the moorland fires and opposition from our fire service and National Park.  I hope they will do the decent thing.

Our firefighters and volunteers need all the support they can get.  I am doing all I can in my role and I know everyone across High Peak will join in our thanks and support.