Moorland management policies have been questioned after a blaze destroyed 200 acres of heather in the Peak District.
The fire, which broke out at around 1pm yesterday near Lady Bower Reservoir. and is believed to have been started by a disposable barbecue, quickly escalated into a major blaze threatening the natural habitat of wild animals and birds including red grouse, plovers, meadow pipits and hen harriers.
Fire crews from across Derbyshire and neighbouring counties battled to bring the blaze under control, leaving the job of managing the fire overnight to local gamekeepers.
Gamekeeper Kieran Logan said moorland management policies implemented some 10 years ago by the landowners, The National Trust, were partly to blame for the blaze spreading.
He said in the past areas of heather were burned off to create natural fire breaks, but that no longer happens.
“This is devastating. 200 acres of heather moorland, which is actually rarer than the rainforest, gone in an instant, and all because we are not allowed to burn off patches like we used to do,” he said.
“By burning selected areas annually and keeping the heather at different heights it used to create natural fire barriers.
“And we used to have short green grass growing in patches of the moorland too.
“But we’re not allowed to do that anymore, and now there are unbroken areas of heather, which is a huge source of energy for accidental fires, and as we have seen here tonight it can spread at lightening speed through the moors.
“It will take at least 15 years for this to recover and I dread to think how many nesting birds have been killed.
“There could well be lambs caught up in this too and burned, I have heard several ewes calling tonight.”
The National Trust has been contacted for a comment.