Firefighters to get extra training to deal with wildfires following major moorland blazes

Firefighters will be given extra training to deal with the types of wildfires that devastated Ilkley Moor last year.

Over the Easter Bank Holiday West Yorkshire Fire Service dealt with two major moorland blazes – at Ilkley and Marsden Moors. A wildfire also broke out on Saddleworth Moor in February.

The service said the blazes “tested the capabilities” of the service, and one firefighter suffered serious burns while trying to bring them under control.

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These, and other recent moorland fires, lead to the service carrying out a wildfire review, which has now been published.

Firefighters tackled a moorland blaze on Saddleworth Moor in February 2019. Credit: Joseph Bridgstock /PA Wire

It found that the service had “insufficient dedicated wildfire capability” and makes a number of suggestions of how crews could be more prepared for future fires.

Among the recommendation are that some fire crews, including those based at Keighley, be trained to pilot an “Argocat” – dune buggy style vehicle designed to get to hard to reach hilly areas. Work to train Keighley crews is due to take place in June.

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The review, which will go before West Yorkshire Fire Authority’s community safety committee on January 24, says: “The April bank holiday weekend saw WYFRS attend simultaneous major incidents at Marsden and Ilkley Moor.

“The fire on Marsden Moor started on Sunday, April 21 and burned for three days, during which time the fire spread over three square miles of moorland.

“The financial impact on WYFRS over this weekend was an extra £45,000 due to requiring further firefighting resources and loss of equipment. The cost to the Natural Trust in regenerating the moorland is estimated to be £500,000.

“During Monday, April 22 crews were dealing with challenging firefighting due to the hot weather, distances to the fire front and the severity of the conditions. The continuing change in fire behaviour required three emergency evacuations throughout the day, one of these leading to a firefighter receiving serious burns to the head.

The ARGO 8×8 vehicle is an all-terrain vehicle utilised by WYFRS through the South Pennines Fire Operations Group. It has the ability to cross rough terrain and carries a fire fog unit and its own water supply.

It is an eight-wheel drive vehicle with a skid steering system, it carries two operators and the fire fog system. The system can be removed, allowing six firefighters to be carried. The vehicle is currently based at Todmorden fire station.