Partnership project to reduce wildfire risk in Northumberland

Published:  16 December, 2013

Northumberland Fire and Rescue Service (NFRS) and the Northumberland National Park have begun work on a project to help reduce the risk of wildfires in the county.

The Northumberland Collaborative Burning Project is also supported by the Northumberland Fire Group; a multiagency stakeholder group created to address wildfire issues, that will help protect people, the economy and the environment.

Dry springs and summers during recent years have led to the need for such a project which will see NFRS deliver specialist training to firefighters in Bellingham, Rothbury and Wooler. The next generation of firefighters will also be provided with these new skills as NFRS visit branches of the Young Firefighters Association for those aged 13-17.

Alex Bennett, chief fire officer for Northumberland County Council said: ‘Unless the heather moorland is properly managed, the peat soils which have taken thousands of years to establish can catch fire and burn right down to the bedrock. The additional training we can provide to our staff and those at the national park will ensure an effective partnership that works to reduce the risk and spread of wildfires in the future.’

The training is designed in two parts; a theory session delivered at each fire station; and a hands-on practical training session called a collaborative burn in various sites throughout the park.

Each collaborative burn will be completed by trained wildfire experts from NFRS, retained firefighters from rural fire stations and local landowners and managers. This training exercise involves creating a fire in an area of the park and has two key benefits; helping those involved to work together safely, effectively and efficiently to reduce the fuel loads that naturally build up in the moorland over time; and by reducing the amount of fuel this lowers the risk of wildfires occurring and spreading throughout the park in the future.

The younger firefighters will receive wildlife training, map reading and navigational skills which are vital for firefighters attending wildfire incidents and are also key, transferable skills for those who may enter into land management professions.  

The project is being supported by Northumberland National Park Authority’s, (NNPA) sustainable development fund.

Andrew Miller, head of programmes and conservation at NNPA said: ‘Northumberland National Park has some of the most important moorland habitats in Europe. Fire has been used to manage their areas for centuries and it is important that all of us involved in there protection work together and share knowledge, expertise and experience. This project brings together farmers, shepherds and gamekeepers with firefighters and National Park staff in a very positive and practical way’ 

One of the farmers involved in the project is Andrew Rogerson at Belshiel Farm, he said: ‘This project will enable farmers like me who are working in the National Park to work and train with the Fire and Rescue Service for mutual benefit. During the project the local fire crews will be familiarising themselves with the area and we will be developing good working relationships. This project is helping us to work together to manage fuel and prepare for potential future wildfires.’

In addition to the training and collaborative burns, NFRS will purchase additional wildfire suppression equipment as part of the project. This equipment will be stored within the National Park for use at wildfire incidents in the Park and during future training exercises. 

  • Operation Florian

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