Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Prevention Work Call on Wild Fires Hazard

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Prevention Work Call on Wild Fires Hazard

Article excerpt

Byline: By Anna Lognonne

More work is required to prevent wildland fires, according to the Country Land and Business Association in the North-East.

The call was made after a number of moorland fires burned out of control across Northumberland last weekend, and major damage was caused to woodland and moorland in the Upper Coquet valley by a fire over the Easter weekend, which took three days to extinguish.

With little rain forecast, and many predicting a hot, dry summer, more needs to be done now to educate the public over the risk of causing wildland fire, according to CLA North-East director Angus Collingwood-Cameron.

He said: "Landowners and managers are working well with public bodies, including the Fire and Rescue Service, via the Northumberland Fire Group, to help tackle wildland fires. I would like to see this initiative extended to the rest of the region, but I would also like to see a more positive approach to the prevention of moorland fires."

Natural England operates a Fire Severity Index, in conjunction with the Meteorological Office, for helping manage public access on open moorland under the CRoW Act.

When the index reaches 5, the risk is thought to be severe and the "right to roam" can be suspended. The index is currently at 3 in those areas recently affected by moorland fires.

However, the Fire Severity Index model predicts the severity, or exceptionality of a fire should it occur. It is not designed to predict whether or not a fire is likely to start.

Also, while the Fire Severity Index will automatically trigger a suspension of CRoW access rights when it reaches level 5, public rights of way are unaffected, as are areas of moorland where access has always existed (section 15 land).

But Mr Collingwood-Cameron said he thought more could be done to improve the index system. He said: "Clearly, this index is not working and it could be used to a much greater effect if action were to be taken before the final resort of closures. …

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