Update: Wildfires burn in West Yorkshire as record-breaking dry spell continues

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HEATHLAND fires were still raging across parts of West Yorkshire and the Pennines today after the record-breaking dry spell.

Firefighters streamed water from a helicopter in an attempt to tackle a fierce blaze which has raged over two square kilometres of moorland for the past four days.

The inferno, thought to have been started deliberately, has wrecked moorland near Wainstalls in West Yorkshire, forcing wind turbines to be switched off to avoid fanning the flames.

Around 25 firefighters were still tackling the fire on Tuesday, joined by several appliances and helicopters carrying water.

Firefighters extinguished one fire on the moor on Saturday, which is thought to have started naturally, before a second one was started on Monday.

Fire station commander Robin Ward said: “The initial fire started on Saturday afternoon and that was contained on the Sunday. Then there was a further fire started on Monday by some local youths and that has overtaken the first one.

“Because it has been so dry and we haven’t had much rain you don’t need much of an ignition tool to get a fire going.

“The moor is very, very dry and around two square kilometres has already been damaged. If we had the rain we usually get in April there wouldn’t be any moorland fire because the ground would be wet and the peat would be saturated.

“The fire has mainly been extinguished but, because of the wind, there is still a danger of it reigniting so we will be standing by.

“Wind turbines near by have been switched off by the electric company. That has been done so the helicopter can fly in between them and drop water but also there was a risk the fire could burn down to the cables.”

Mr Ward said that, at the fire’s height on Monday, there were six appliances and 35 firefighters tackling the fire. Four appliances and 25 crew remained there on Tuesday.

A helicopter has been assisting the firefighters by making continual runs to and from the blaze to collect 800 litres of water to dump on the fire.

Elsewhere, there were also large blazes at Denholme, Bradford, where 1,000 square metres of moorland were involved, and at Longley Moors, where 200 square metres of moorland was on fire.

Forecasters said there was very little chance of rain in the area for the next 24 hours.

In Lancashire, fire crews continued their attempts to control two fires in Belmont and Simonswood which started on Friday and Saturday respectively.

A spokeswoman for Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service said three appliances and a high volume pump were being used at Belmont, and four appliances and a high volume pump were tackling the Simonswood blaze.

She said they were hoping to send a helicopter over the sites on Tuesday to assess the situation.

In the Scottish Highlands, firefighters tackled two wildfires which have been raging since the holiday weekend.

At Shiel Bridge three properties were evacuated last night as the flames advanced.

Today, 22 firefighters were at the scene and there were plans to use helicopters later to dampen the blaze.

Nine firefighters are still at the scene of a blaze in Torridon, which has been burning since Sunday afternoon.

In Northern Ireland, police were investigating reports of a man seen with a petrol can close to one of the worst gorse fires for years in the Mourne Mountains.

Another two youths were spotted lighting fires in south Armagh, reports to the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) added.

Hundreds of acres of land are being destroyed, and homes and livestock threatened by fires which have burned for much of the bank holiday weekend in Counties Down, Armagh and Tyrone.

Paul Knightley, a forecaster from MeteoGroup, the weather division of the Press Association, said it was unlikely to rain until tomorrow evening at the earliest.

He said: “We’re not expecting any rain in the next 24 hours. There’s an area of high pressure over the north of the country.

“Tomorrow night it looks like some showery rain will start to edge into Northern Ireland and it might start to edge into Scotland on Thursday morning.”

The forecaster said both Scotland and Northern Ireland had just two-thirds of the rain it would normally expect in April.

With 1.7in (43mm) falling across Scotland, it was 68% of the normal rainfall, and the 1.5in (38mm) in Northern Ireland was 66% of normal levels.

Last month was the hottest April on record in England and Wales, Mr Knightley said.

Rainfall was just 21% of the expected levels, and the average temperature was the hottest since records began 353 years ago.