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National Trust 'devastated' at destruction of wildlife on Marsden Moor

Biggest fire yet on Marsden Moor Credit: West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service

The National Trust says it is 'devastated' at the destruction caused to wildlife by the fire on Marsden Moor, saying it's likely the biggest loss will be nesting birds such as curlew, and mountain hares.

The 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.

A significant fire on February 27th had already damaged 121 hectares. The latest fire, which broke out on the evening of Easter Sunday, is believed to have been started with a BBQ.

Trained National Trust Rangers and volunteers are also currently assisting in beating down flames with specialist equipment.

We’re devastated to see the destruction caused. Please help us protect the moors and wildlife by calling the fire brigade immediately if you spot any signs of fire. We need our visitors’ help to prevent the risk of fire across the countryside that we care for, particularly when we experience prolonged periods of dry weather or are in drought conditions.

– National Trust spokesperson

The blaze is now estimated to cover over 15 square kilometres (1500 hectares) of moorland and is the most significant fire in recent years on Marsden Moor. From where it started on Sunday at Eastergate, it spread across Close Moss and has since headed west towards Castle Shaw (united utilities land). On Monday evening the fire jumped across the A640 towards Readycon Dean Reservoir, but crews fought this breakout back to the road.

Crews, staff and volunteers remain on site today (Tuesday) and will keep up efforts to contain the fire with the rain forecast tomorrow hopefully helping.

We recognise the need to proactively manage and reduce wildfire risk and our ranger team and volunteers regularly monitor the moorland to spot signs of fire. We also train our staff and volunteers on an annual basis to manage fires. At present it is estimated that an investment of more than £200k in restoring this special habitat has been lost. The deployment of the helicopter itself costs the National Trust, a conservation charity, £2000 per hour.

– National Trust spokesperson

Meanwhile, following a huge blaze on Ilkley Moor over the Easter weekend, a 19-year-old man has been charged with arson, although police say this is in connection with a smaller fire and not the main fire. Two other men, aged 23 and 24, have been released pending further investigation.