The most devastating thing to happen on the moors and indeed the lower ground is that of fire. It is so easy to start a fire but so difficult to extinguish one. In 1976, between June and August, there were 82 moorland fires within the Peak District National Park. I recall it as a time when all the rangers were firefighting every day and came back home with blackened faces looking like they had emerged from a deep coal mine.
Firefighting training was upgraded with much equipment being made available, including, in 1978, an Argocat vehicle which could cross moorland without destroying the fragile vegetation. It was purchased for a number of tasks but proved invaluable for carrying firefighting equipment and for relaying fire hose across the moors.
In 1996 the Fires Operational Group (FOG) was established and brought together a partnership of six Fire Services, National Park rangers, National Trust wardens, water companies, major landowners, and gamekeepers to draw up fire plans, oversee specialist fire-fighting equipment, raise awareness of moorland fires and the consequences and train for emergencies.
The video was made in 2011 and since then Sean Prendergast has sadly passed away. However, it makes a fitting tribute to the work that Sean did to promote firefighting and encourage liaison between the various services. It is also as appropriate today as it was then.
The Fire Operations Group:
- carries out regular training exercises
- monitors conditions on the ground in dry weather
- setting up fire watches when necessary to give early notice of any moorland fires.
- publicises the risk of moorland fires by posters at moorland access points to advise and inform the public.
Occasionally access to moorland is suspended due to the high risk of fires and this is determined by the Fire Severity Index which is compiled by the Met Office and managed by Natural England.