A MOORLAND fire has caused widespread damage to land at near Marsden.
The land, on the Marsden Moor Estate, is owned by the National Trust.
And the blaze – one of two huge moorland fires in the past 48 hours – has endangered the lives of nesting birds and other wildlife.
Nearly 300 acres of moorland to the north of the A640 at Buckstones have been gutted by the fire, which is believed to have been caused by a cigarette end discarded near the roadside.
It was the second fire the Trust has experienced in the last two weeks on its land at Marsden.
The first was caused when a barbecue toppled over.
The Trust is now urging motorists and visitors coming to the area to think more carefully about the surroundings and the damage a discarded cigarette could cause.
Gemma Wren, its countryside manager at Marsden, said: “We have yet to fully gain access to the area following the fire, but I’m already saddened by the prospect of what faces the team up there.
“It is likely that a carelessly discarded cigarette has caused this fire. I urge all visitors to think more carefully when travelling across the moor, to extinguish cigarettes responsibly and also take all rubbish home with them”.
She added: “The moor is a special protection area for birds. Where the fire broke out nesting birds, including curlews, golden plovers and twites, will have been affected.
“We can only hope that some escaped the blaze and will be able to nest again.’’
The estate is also a site of special scientific interest for the significant moorland habitat and blanket bog that occurs here.
Gemma said: “We have a dedicated team of volunteers who turned out to assist the West Yorkshire and Greater Manchester fire brigades.
“I would like to thank them and the fire brigade crews who worked tirelessly to bring the blaze under control.’’
Marsden Moor has been in the care and ownership of the National Trust since 1955 and the recent fire has severely undone the charity’s work there. For the last 20 years the Trust has been restoring the peat landscape by intense heather regeneration and blocking gullies to retain water and vegetation cover.
Peat is a significant carbon ‘sink’, but if it is exposed to the elements and allowed to erode it can release large amounts of carbon dioxide.
Meanwhile, yesterday’s rain finally helped weary fire crews end their task in fighting another fire which spread over a large area of moorland.
Strong winds fanned the fire around Baitings Reservoir above Ripponden, on the Yorkshire-Lancashire border.
At one stage there was a two-mile-long fire front along the side of the main A58 road between Lancashire and Yorkshire.
Two firefighters suffered minor injuries. At its peak more than 60 firefighters battled the blaze. No property was in danger.
It is not known what started the blaze.