A SPECIALIST unit set up to tackle moorland and woodland blazes has just had its busiest period.
The Wildfire Unit, based at Holmfirth Fire Station on Huddersfield Road, has proved its mettle during the driest April and early May on record.
The unit has been on call to deal with moorland fires which have raged on the Pennines near Huddersfield and Halifax.
Firefighters spent days helping to tackle the massive blaze at Wainstalls, above Halifax, which was finally put out this Wednesday after 12 days.
They also tackled fires at Cop Hill, Marsden, and at several other moorland sites around Huddersfield.
Watch Commander Mick Lee said: “It has been a very, very busy start to the year, particularly in April and early May.
“We have had several large moorland fires and it has been particularly arduous work for the firefighters.”
Strong winds which can change direction quickly, rough terrain and long distances from roads are just some of the elements which the unit faces.
The Holmfirth Wildfire Unit was set up two years ago and is one of only three in West Yorkshire. The others are in Todmorden and Keighley.
Their formation was encouraged by the Government, which realised the increasing importance of protecting the fragile ecosystems of West Yorkshire’s unique moorlands.
The unit has a dedicated Land Rover with a trailer full of specialised equipment, including lightweight flexible hoses, beaters and portable pumps which can take water from heathland streams.
At any time of day or night, eight of Holmfirth’s 17 on-call firefighters can be called out to man the Wildfire Unit.
The specialist firefighters have to be fit. They may have to travel long distances on foot over rough terrain carrying equipment and backpacks with 20 litres of water.
Station Commander Richard Doyle said: “I would like to congratulate everybody in the Wildfire Unit for the professionalism and enthusiasm with which they have fought the fires.
“We would encourage the public to be extra vigilant if we have further dry weather. A small spark can set off a huge fire”.