Brigade battles brush blaze

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SMOKE billowed from Fylingdales Moor on Tuesday (26 April) as firefighters tackled a blaze that had been burning overnight.

The fire crews were initially called to the scene late Monday evening but were forced to retreat until the morning as the blaze was too dangerous to tackle at night.

Crews from Robin Hood’s Bay, Whitby, Lythe, Scarborough and Kirkbymoorside attended the scene, near the Flask Inn on the A171, and Dave Duncalfe, watch manager at Robin Hood’s Bay fire and rescue said: “Last night we came up and assessed the situation and beat back the flames and had to retreat because it was pitch black and it was dangerous.

“We have been here this morning since half five and we will be here all day.”

The fire was contained to an area of approximately three hectares by a stream at the bottom of a ravine and a footpath at the top, both of which created a gap that the fire could not jump.

Watch manager Duncalfe added: “We can only assume that because there’s a footpath someone must have been having a walk and tossed a cigarette.

“It’s the start of the dry season and we haven’t had any rain for a month.

“It’s an accident waiting to happen and of course it doesn’t help when your natural resources of water are low as well.”

The surface bush fire that burns vegetation is extinguished by beaters, but the underlying peat soil can smoulder and burn silently, if not “damped down” - properly extinguished with large amounts of water.

This burning of the soil can cause serious damage that takes years to regenerate and in Bransdale patches of peatland are still bare as a result of a fire that burned in the 1930s.

Chris Hansell, ranger for the Hawk and Owl Trust on Fylingdales Moor, was on the scene assisting the firefighters and said that wildlife is also at serious risk: “This time of the year we are going to have ground nesting birds looking to set up territory.

“Reptiles are also up and about and they can get caught up in it.”

Although birds can fly away, the nests of species such as curlews and lapwings can be destroyed by a moorland fire, and any eggs or chicks inside would also perish.

North York Moors spokesperson Rachel McIntosh said: “The National Park is still on fire risk alert so we would urge people to take extra care when out and about.

“The key things to remember are not to light fires or bbq’s, not to drop cigarettes, matches or glass, including cigarettes from car windows, and to alert the fire brigade if you spot a fire.”

Fire crews attended the fire until 5pm on Tuesday and returned the next day for a revisit to ensure the fire was completely extinguished.