Northumberland Fire and Rescue Service bolster ability to tackle wildfires with new Haltwhistle hub

250422 Northumberland Wildfire ITV News Tyne Tees
Just last month a wildfire swept through Fourlaws Forest near Sweethope Loughs. Credit: ITV Tyne Tees

Fire crews in Northumberland have bolstered their ability to tackle dangerous wildfires, with a new dedicated hub.

The centre, based at Haltwhistle Fire Station, will provide firefighters with specialist kit and training to tackle a rising incidents number of incidents.

There have been five wildfires in the county this year alone, some of which have burned for several days.

A recent fire at Fourlaws Forest near Sweethope Loughs burned through 180 square kilometres of land and forced authorities to close roads.

It led to Northumberland Fire and Rescue Service (NFRS) once again, urging the public to avoid having BBQs and "to act responsibly when out and about".

Wildfires are expected to become a more common occurrence as the climate crisis worsens. Credit: ITV Tyne Tees

The hub's launch comes with summer just around the corner, with more wildfires expected in the coming months.

"We have several hubs around the county based close to sensitive landscapes that are classed as high risk," said Rob Stacey, Wildfire lead for the NFRS.

"These areas require enhanced protection from wildfires and are valuable for a number of reasons.

"For example, the Northumberland countryside is full of important heritage sites, rare natural habitats, plants and species, and key infrastructure.  

"These hubs are especially important considering that climate change predictions indicate we will experience more frequent and larger wildfires in the future," he continued.

"Although we train all our operational staff on how to deal with these fires, our crews working out of the wildfire hubs receive more specialist training which enhances our response capability."

The Haltwhistle hub is one of four that covers the county – the other hubs are Bellingham, Wooler and Rothbury.

All of the hubs are kitted out with specialist firefighting equipment provided by the Northumberland Fire Group.

An area of woodland affected by a wildfire at Kyloe Woods. Credit: Northumberland County Council

Angus Collingwood-Cameron, Chair of the Northumberland Fire Group said: "The Fire Group has been delighted to support NFRS in the creation of this new wildfire hub. 

"This will be of great benefit to landowners who manage our moorlands and woodlands which are at risk of devastating wildfire.”

Robert Mayhew, Head of Conservation and Environment at Northumberland National Park Authority added: "The Authority fully recognises the devastating impact that wildfires can have on the natural and cultural environment of the National Park and for those land managers that have helped shape the landscape that we all treasure today. 

"The Authority welcomes Northumberland Fire and Rescue Service’s investment in the wildfire hub at Haltwhistle fire station, as it is hoped that firefighting resources can be deployed more swiftly to incidents in the National Park and thus hopefully reduce the damage caused by wildfires. 

"As the risk of wildfires increases year on year on the back of the effects of climate change, the knowledge that firefighting staff will gain can also be shared with others to help reduce the risk of fires starting in the first place."