Huge fires wreck Yorkshire moorland and wild habitats in record-breaking Easter heat

Jane Dalton

Firefighters have been tackling two massive moorland fires in record-breaking Easter temperatures, including one believed to have been sparked by a barbecue that has caused thousands of pounds' worth of damage.

The National Trust said it had been forced to spend £2,000 an hour on a specialist firefighting helicopter to douse the flames at Marsden Moor, West Yorkshire.

Restoration work on the moor has been wrecked, and it is feared that numerous animals including curlews, a kind of wading bird, have been killed.

More than 50 firefighters, with at least 15 fire engines, battled to bring the flames under control in intense heat on one of the hottest days of the year.

The Marsden fire began on Sunday, while other crews were still tackling an earlier wild fire, at Ilkley Moor, 35 miles away.

And as Scotland recorded its warmest Easter Monday on record along with the rest of the UK, teams were called to a wildfire stretching for six miles across Moray.

The three emergencies came after a week of protests in London over climate change, with thousands of Extinction Rebellion demonstrators calling for urgent action to prevent disastrous global temperature rises.

The Marsden fire, near Huddersfield, which trust officials said was likely to have been caused by a barbecue, spread to Saddleworth, Greater Manchester, covering more than 300 hectares.

Smoke could be seen for miles around as trust rangers beat down flames with specialist equipment.

A spokesman said: “At present it is estimated that an investment of more than £200,000 in restoring this special habitat has been lost.

“We’re devastated to see the destruction.

“The deployment of the helicopter itself costs the National Trust, a conservation charity, £2,000 per hour.”

Several blazes have already erupted this year on the moor, which is a Site of Special Scientific Interest, a Special Protection Area and Special Area of Conservation, thanks to its ground-nesting bird population and blanket bog habitat.

A fire there in February damaged more than 100 hectares.

Trust officials will meet fire chiefs this week to discuss the outbreaks.

Local residents delivered food and water to crews during their long shifts.

On Ilkley Moor, firefighters were damping down the flames that spread over 50 acres.

Authorities advised people to keep windows and doors shut as a precaution and asked them to stay away from the moors.

Three men – aged 19, 23 and 24 – were arrested over the Ilkley blaze. One has been charged with arson and two others have been released under investigation, West Yorkshire Police said.

Scottish Fire and Rescue Service said nine fire appliances, a command support unit and two water carriers were battling flames near a wind farm on Moray.

All four of the UK nations had their warmest Easter Monday on record, the Met Office said.

There was a high of 25C at Heathrow and Northolt, in London, as well as Wisley, in Surrey.