THIS EASTER’S devastating fires on Ilkley Moor is another reminder about the fragility of the natural environment – and our collective duty, as custodians of the countryside in God’s Own County, to look after these natural habitats.
This was exemplified by the public reaction as firefighters did their best, in unforgiving terrain on the hottest day of the year thus far, to contain the blaze. Sorrow at nationally-acclaimed moors going up in smoke was matched by admiration for all those who battled the elements to minimise the destruction.
The priority now is one of containment – and a swift response if any flames are reignited – before a more forensic inquiry to establish if the fire was started deliberately or by carelessness.
However tinderbox dry ground conditions will have exacerbated matters. After all, an unseasonably dry winter has been followed by a heatwave which points to a long summer ahead for all those firefighters, conservationists and volunteers who are tasked with protecting our moors.
Like the response to recent fires on Saddleworth Moor which followed prolonged periods of minimal rainfall, it is, once again, testament to the professionalism of the emergency services, including volunteer responders, that nearby properties in Ilkley were unaffected.
Yet every visitor to the countryside is also duty-bound to take extra care, and follow codes of conduct, which do exist to reduce the risk of fire. Once moorland is ablaze, it can take many days for land to be made safe – and many more years before natural order is restored.