Hundreds of animals are thought to have perished in the blaze which moved at “frightening” speed and laid waste to four hundred hectares of protected Marsden Moor.
Despite the efforts of dozens of firefighters battling the flames with ten pumps, along with rangers, volunteers and a £2,000-per-hour helicopter drafted in to bring in water from nearby reservoirs, the moor is expected to continue burning overnight.
The sixth and most serious wildfire the area has seen in under two months was caused by people lighting a portable barbecue at Easter Gate on Sunday, spreading to Close Moss and Castleshaw.
The group raised the alarm, waited for fire crews to arrive and were “genuinely mortified” by what happened, owner the National Trust said.
Coming just hours after fire raged across 60 hectares on Ilkley Moor, many on social media called for a ban on the portable grills, including one commentator who said: “Burned heather moorland takes decades to recover. How many ground nesting moorland birds have perished because of these idiots lighting a barbecue?”
Countryside manager Craig Best said the fires “all more or less started in laybys” and had been caused by “acts of unthoughtlessness,” rather than anything deliberate.
He said they would be talking to Kirklees Council to look at the possibility of a temporary ban on open fires and BBQs on open moorland.
An order was imposed by the council last year, and although there were still wildfires, there was nothing of the scale of the blaze seen over the Bank Holiday Weekend.
Mr Best warned that even if there is another ban and they step up patrols of volunteers and rangers they “will never stop every incident.”
Among the casualties of the fire could be the eggs of ground-nesting curlew, short-eared owls and merlin.
Mr Best said: “There are also small mammals, reptiles, the common lizard, insects.
“It is hard to estimate but several hundred animals will have perished as a result of this fire.
“Even mountain hares could be caught out because some of the fires have spread so quickly that you couldn’t outrun them. It is quite frightening to see it happen.”
The £2 portable grill has also cost the Trust at least £10,000 for the helicopter and ruined a £200,000 investment in restoring the habitat, which is a Site of Special Scientific Interest, a
Special Protection Area and Special Area of Conservation. Coir logs for blocking gullies, heather bales and newly planted sphagnum moss have all gone up in smoke.
A significant fire on February 27 damaged 121 square hectares with four separate smaller fires extinguished since.
The latest fire broke out after a significant dry period.
The Met Office said April to date had seen just 9.8mm of rainfall, 15 per cent of the average for the whole month.
But heavy showers are expected from Wednesday.