BARNSLEY residents considering lighting a disposable barbecue while enjoying the town’s outdoor beauty spots have been urged to consider their safety by council bosses this week.
Although the barbecues, available for as little as £2, are widely available, they have been banned by neighbouring Kirklees Council having been blamed for decimating a key wildlife habitat on moorland, which separates South and West Yorkshire, last month.
Barnsley-based crews were part of a team which tackled fast-spreading flames which resulted in an estimated 1,500 hectares the equivalent of almost 2,000 football pitches of moorland near Holmfirth being ruined.
Given the severity of grassland fires in Barnsley last year, which saw more than 1,000 reports being made with a particular rise between May and August, Phil Hollingsworth, service director for safer, stronger and healthier communities at the council, appealed to the public to take responsibility.
He said: “As well as the obvious dangers to people and the potentially huge financial cost to property damage, putting out grassland fires takes up fire crews’ valuable time which could be needed elsewhere to save a life.
“Much of the grassed areas the council own are also important wildlife habitats, not only offering safe havens for ground-nesting birds and small mammals, but they are also rich in invertebrate food and home to many pollinating insects.
“Given how easily fires can be accidentally started by disposable barbecues, we urge the public to seriously consider the likely consequences of their actions before purposefully lighting one.”
Swathes of Barnsley’s countryside land is owned by Yorkshire Water, where it is illegal to use disposable barbecues or start any fire, although barbecues are permitted in some other council-owned areas.
Lisa Harrowsmith, land and property lead surveyor for Yorkshire Water, added: “It is illegal to have barbecues on moorland and we have seen recently the huge damage they can cause.
“Wildfires are not only dangerous but devastate local ecosystems in many ways. They can destroy peat soils formed over thousands of years, which results in loss of valuable habitat and wildlife such as birds, reptiles and insects.
“The source of much of the water we use in Yorkshire comes from our moorland catchment zones.
“The problem with wildfires is that they cause this land to dry out, which increases peat sediment getting into reservoirs and causes water colour problems.
“It is therefore vital that we limit their occurrences rather than having to keep paying more money to treat the water.
“Our aim is to reduce the incidents of wildfire, ensure best practice on current managed moors by gamekeepers, and minimise the impacts of wildfires when they do occur.”
South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue (SYFR) through its crews based in the town centre, Cudworth, Dearne and Tankersley is targeting schools across the borough, which has resulted in officers delivering talks about the dangers of fires.