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Moorland Association welcomes the Firewise Communities initiative

12th March 2020

The Moorland Association today welcomes the development of the Firewise Communities initiative.

Firewise Communities is an international programme based on research by the world’s leading fire experts on ignition of homes from wildfire. The programme encourages communities to work together to reduce the risk to homes from wildfire by taking practical steps in the area around the home and garden.

Whilst the initiative is primarily aimed at homeowners living near heaths at increasing risk of wildfire it contains many common messages and lessons which apply as equally to our precious upland heather moorlands. These include:

  • Recognising that every year wildfires burn in the UK and more people are living in areas where wildfires are a risk
  • Through working together, we can make neighbourhoods safer from the risk of wildfires
  • Making homes and neighbourhoods more resilient to wildfires
  • Ensuring communities learn more about wildfires and are proactive in reducing the risk from wildfires
  • Recognising a lot of wildfires are caused by people, mostly by careless behaviour
  • Acknowledging fuel loads as a key influence of wildfires and managing these can greatly influence their scale and intensity – particularly clearing out dry or dead vegetation.
  • Stressing that homeowners can and must take primary responsibility for fire safety action around the home – or indeed on the moorland they manage.

Over the past decade there has been a surge of large wildfires and prolonged fire seasons across the globe. In the UK, 2018 and 2019 together saw more damage caused by wildfires than the entirety of the previous decade (2008-2017) with nearly 50,000 Ha destroyed in over 200 wildfires.

Climate change has lengthened the fire season in many countries through increased production of vegetation, through both warming and higher precipitation, which has led to higher fuel loads.

The “cool burning” of heather, when conditions allow in winter, helps reduce fuel loads on our moorland making them less susceptible to wildfires whilst preserving the vulnerable carbon-rich peat soils beneath.

Defra’s own guidance on wildfire mitigation via the Uplands Management Group clearly highlights the critical importance of managing fuel loads and fire chiefs in both Scotland and Wales have recently endorsed the use of controlled burning as a means of combating wildfires.

We encourage any homeowners adjoining any habitat that may be a wildfire risk – including heather moorland, to engage with this excellent initiative and to heed the practical advice provided.

If you think your community would benefit from being part of this international programme, or to find out more information, please contact the Urban Heaths Partnership on: 01202 642787.

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Did You Know?

75% of Europe’s remaining upland heather moorland is found in the UK – but this area declined alarmingly over the latter part of the last century. The Moorland Association was set up in 1986 to coordinate the efforts of moorland owners and managers to halt this loss, particularly in England and Wales.

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