After weeks of fine and dry weather, the Fire Severity Index for West Yorkshire is rated as very high and residents are reminded of the potential dangers of starting any sort of fire.
Large and preventable moorland fires, as seen over the weekend close to Widdop Reservoir near Hebden Bridge, cause a significant strain on resources. Calderdale Council continues to work with partners at West Yorkshire Fire & Rescue Service and West Yorkshire Police to enforce Public Space Protection Orders in areas of the countryside to prevent fires. These orders prohibit the lighting of fires, barbecues, sky lanterns or anything that causes a fire risk - failure to comply is a criminal offence.
Domestic fires can also be incredibly dangerous and residents and businesses are being urged not to burn general and garden waste, especially during the current COVID-19 pandemic.
Burning garden waste produces smoke that can be a nuisance to neighbours and harmful to health. Even with the best of intentions and planning, fires can quickly get out of hand and flames can spread to fences, sheds or buildings.
If residents need to dispose of garden waste during this period of disruption, the best way is through home composting. Calderdale residents who haven’t already got a composting bin can get a special rate at https://getcomposting.com/.
Household waste should not be burned at all and those who do it could be committing an offence and risk being prosecuted. Waste and recycling collections are going ahead as normal and residents are reminded to manage their waste responsibly.
Calderdale Council’s Cabinet Member for Public Services and Communities, Cllr Susan Press, said:
“Any type of fire can quickly get out of hand, so we’re urging residents to respect the countryside as always, but also be aware of the dangers of domestic fires.
“Many people are spending more time in their gardens as we all follow advice to stay at home. Garden fires can be a nuisance or cause serious issues for those with respiratory problems and persistent burning will be subject to enforcement action. The burning of household waste is an offence and can cause real danger - in these cases we won’t hesitate to seek prosecution.
“We also ask people to act responsibly if choosing to exercise by walking on our moorland. The dry weather means the risk level is high, so please take extra care, take litter home and pay attention to signage.
“By reducing the number of preventable fires, resources can be directed at helping the most vulnerable in our communities.”
West Yorkshire Fire & Rescue Service, Calderdale District Commander, Chris Lawton said:
"Crews from WYFRS have been called to several moorland fires in the last few weeks, which take up a great number of resources and can be challenging to tackle.
"All moorland fires are avoidable and we want to reiterate to people to be responsible if using our moorland for their daily exercise.
"There has been a rise in garden fires in the recent weeks, I would ask that people refrain from burning garden waste in their gardens due to the possibility of fire spread, but also the impact these fires have on their neighbours, due to the smoke and smell."
If you do see a fire in the countryside:
contact the Fire Service immediately – dial 999 (don’t assume it’s already been reported)
don’t attempt to tackle fires that can’t be put out with a bucket of water
give a map reference if possible, otherwise give a landmark such as a farm or pub to help locate the fire
estimate the size of the area that’s burning
describe the type of terrain (grass, bracken, forest, open moorland etc)
evacuate the area as soon as possible
Residents can also report any information about illegal fire setting activities and those responsible (anonymously) to Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.