Article shared from Lancashire Fire and Rescue.

Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service have joined together with three local councils from Chorley, Bolton, and Blackburn with Darwen along with Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service, Lancashire Police and Greater Manchester Police, using legal powers to protect the environment and prevent wildfire devastation on moorland.

A Public Space Protection Order (PSPO) for parts of Chorley, Darwen and Bolton came into force on 21 August 2023 to prevent devastation to wildlife and reduce the risks of wildfire on the moors.

Representatives from the authorities gathered on the site of the PSPO this week to raise awareness of the new order and to encourage people to stay safe when in the area and not use any instruments which can cause devastating fires.

The PSPO bans any activities on moorland that carry a significant risk of causing wildfires – such as lighting barbeques, building or lighting campfires or camping stoves, lighting fireworks, or setting off night-sky paper lanterns.

Moorland fires are difficult to control. At the time of the Winter Hill fires in this same area in 2018, over 100 firefighters and more than 20 fire engines were tackling the blaze, supported by soldiers, volunteers from local mountain rescue teams and a helicopter from United Utilities.

Breaching the PSPO is a criminal offence and could result in a fine of up to £1,000.

Area Manager Matt Hamer and Group Manager Liam Wilson

Matt Hamer, Area Manager at Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service, said: “Lancashire knows only too well the devastating effects of wildfires following a fire on Winter Hill near Bolton in summer 2018, which destroyed 18 square kilometres of moorland, and a large fire started by a disposable BBQ on Darwen Moor in 2020.

“As spring approaches, we start to see an increase of calls for moorland and grass fires as the warm and dry weather begins, and the direct impact of wildfires upon our communities can be massive and can tie up critical emergency service resources.

“We fully support the PSPO and will continue to work with the councils and our partners to protect Lancashire’s great outdoors so everyone can enjoy it safely.”

Ady Taylor, wildfire lead for Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service and National Wildfire Tactical Advisor for the National Fire Chief’s Council, said: “We have seen the devastation moorland fires can cause all too well across our city-region and they are incredibly costly to deal with, taking up a lot of resources, causing damage to the environment and disruption to our communities.”

“Though the beautiful scenery may seem a lovely backdrop for a BBQ in the sunshine, the consequences can be devastating. Please be considerate.”

Inspector Lisa Clarke from Greater Manchester Police’s Bolton district said: “Moorland fires in recent times have seen a devastating impact– not only on local residents, farmland and communities, but the long-term consequences of loss of habitats, destruction of wildlife and vegetation, and pollution.

“Partners have worked collaboratively to secure one the of largest PSPO areas in the country. Hopefully this will act as a sufficient warning to deter the lighting of fires, but should any breaches be reported, positive policing action will be taken, which could result in penalties or fines.

“Throughout peak months, officers will be monitoring the areas around Winter Hill and land around Bolton, to ensure that those who are out enjoy themselves in a safe and responsible manner.”

PC Sean Dalby of Lancashire Police’s Rural Task Force team said: “We have seen previously how moorland fires can have a devasting impact on rural communities and put people at risk.

“Lancashire Police will be monitoring the moorland around Rivington to ensure the area is used safely and properly. We fully support the PSPO which is in place.”

Chorley, Blackburn with Darwen and Bolton councils have all adopted the PSPO, which applies to public open space – this means any land or premises within the PSPO Restricted Area where there is no public access or right of way.

It does not prevent residents living in the PSPO restricted area from, for example, enjoying barbeques or setting off fireworks in their own gardens.

The PSPO will last for three years and organisations and individuals can apply for an exemption if they need to light a fire for a community event where they will be given written consent if they are able to meet the rules and regulations.

Public Space Protection Order sign

A person will be guilty of an offence if they breach the prohibitions within the Prohibition Area, without first obtaining written consent from the relevant council.

Councillor Bev Murray, Executive Member for Early Intervention at Chorley Council said: “We are so lucky in Chorley to have vast areas of natural beauty to enjoy, and it is so important that we have measures in place to protect them. We have seen first-hand the devastation fires can cause which have lasting effects on our habitats and environment.

“I’m pleased that all partners have been able to come together to put this Protection Order in place and that this area will now be safeguarded against fire risk in the future.”

Cllr Sue Haworth, Bolton Council Executive Member for Regulatory Services, said: “Moorland wildfires can have huge and costly impacts on residents, communities, businesses, and tourism, as well as being devastating for wildlife including animals and birds.

“Reducing the risk of wildfires demands a joined-up approach from councils, landowners, the fire service, and the police, and I’m pleased to say that the ban on risky activities has been a fantastic example of different organisations working together very effectively for a common good.

“Not only that, but there is huge public support for protecting our magnificent moorlands from fire, with over 90% of people who took part in our consultation last year strongly supporting this action.”

Councillor Jim Smith, Executive Member for Environment at Blackburn with Darwen Council, said: “As we know fires have had a devastating effect on the environment and this new approach will prevent further damage from happening. We are lucky to have such wonderful moorlands around us and we need to do all that we can to protect them.

“It’s good to work together with partners by putting together the necessary steps and using the Protection Order to preserve and protect our environment.”

General Purposes Group Chair for Lancashire Resilience Forum (LRF), Chief Superintendent Richard Robertshaw said: “Public Space Protection Orders (PSPOs) are a key tool for keeping our communities, environment, and wildlife safe from damage caused by people – whether they be passing through, or resident in Lancashire. By putting in steps to prohibit activities that could cause wildfires, such as open flames, barbeques, and camp stoves, we are able to mitigate and ultimately reduce the risks.

“Councils, Fire and Rescue Services and the Environment Agency have worked collaboratively with colleagues in Greater Manchester to protect our moorlands and beautiful open spaces, enjoyed by thousands every year – I welcome the introduction of the PSPO, as it means our outdoor spaces may continue to be enjoyed for years to come. A breach of a PSPO is serious and a criminal offence, so I would encourage residents and visitors to check the council website ahead of any trip to educate themselves on the new rules.

“By working together and adhering to these, we can dramatically reduce the risk of wildfire and environmental devastation, protecting our communities and eco-system simultaneously. Thank you to all of our partners who continue to go above and beyond to keep Lancashire a safe place to be, visit and work”.

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