On 16th April 2021 the High Peak Borough Council (HPBC) implemented a Public Space Protection Order (PSPO) to make the use of any flame generating device illegal within public areas of the Peak District National Park.
This action has been prompted by an escalating incidence of wildfires which have been started by careless, ignorant or willfully destructive use of fireworks, disposable BBQ's and Chinese lanterns. These have been the most publicised and predominant causes of wildfires reported in the media, along with arson.
|Credit: Peak District National Park|
Over the years there have been many appeals and attempts to educate the public about the dangers and consequences of using disposable BBQ's on tinder dry moorland. At many entry points to access land there are conspicuous signs warning of the fire danger and stating no lighting of fires. Along with so many moorland fires in the past couple of years seen on television news, its hard to believe that anyone can be genuinely unaware of the causes of this problem.
Its an issue which has obvious consequences for wildlife and our natural environment. The grasses and sphagnum which grow on top of peat do suffer from drying in prolonged periods of drought. This spring, with the exception of a few very wet days, has been very dry. So when rain falls as a deluge rather than consistently, water flashes off the top before having time to soak into the underlying peat.
This is where the real problems start for firefighters dealing with uncontrolled moorland fires. If the fire also burns downward into dry peat, then the fire can burn underground and unpredictably erupt in different locations. Even after the original area has been extinguished and dampened down.
|Credit: Peak District National Park|
There is also a financial cost to wildfires. Yes, the fire brigade is funded by public money. But every time they are called out to a moorland fire (either set by malicious intent or ignorance) it uses up this public money in time and equipment. As well as taking up resources which are better kept in readiness for saving people's lives. Manchester Evening News reporting in April 2019 on the Stalybridge fire:
"The National Trust, which provided a helicopter to dump water from above, at a cost of £2000 a day, believes that £360,000 which was spent to restoring a habitat on the moor has been lost"
Then there's the cost of restoring the moorland. The most recent fire on Marsden Moor this April is estimated to have cost £200,000 in damage and resources. All due to the thoughtless use of a disposable BBQ.
|Credit: Manchester Evening News|
But, if there's no danger to life, homes or property, why not just let the fire burn itself out and save all that money on putting it out?
What is perhaps not as well known is that blanket bog, the thin layer of vegetation on top of peat, is highly effective at extracting carbon dioxide, a powerful greenhouse gas, from the atmosphere. As older plants are replaced with fresh growth, they decay into peat locking away the CO2. Scientific studies of blanket bog have shown that, for an equivalent area, it is more efficient than rainforest at holding CO2. But when it is set alight, the greenhouse gasses are released back into the atmosphere.
Therefore, this special but delicate environment is of crucial benefit to us all in buffering the effects of climate change resulting from the activities of a growing global population.
"But, I'm a responsible person and only light my BBQ at the roadside"
"But, I only light my campfire on stony ground"
"But, I use a gas stove and always away from ignition sources"
"But, I would only use my device in wet, wintery, conditions"
While some of these may sound like reasonable exceptions. The PSPO includes all flame generating devices, including gas stoves. So, unfortunately, as is the way of the world and the law in the UK, the rest of us pay the price for the actions of the few. The price in this case is a fixed penalty notice of £100 for being in breach of the order. Or fine of £2000 of the case goes to court (ref: Derby Telegraph 29th April 2021 )
It seems like enforcement of the PSPO will be a case of being caught in the act. Or at least caught without a reasonable excuse of possession. Making it, absolutely rightly, extremely difficult to justify having a disposable BBQ or Chinese Lantern about one's person while walking up onto Kinder, for example.
The devil is almost always in the detail. Section 4 b of the order states:
"...the following is prohibited: Using any article or object which causes a naked flame and thereby poses a risk of fire without the prior written consent of the Borough Council"
'Written consent '- if (however unlikely) written consent was given to use a regulated flame device such as a portable gas stove for example. It's safe to say the Borough Council wouldn't grant this without significant indemnity and insurance in case something went wrong and the cost of this ran into hundreds of thousands of pounds. Never mind the public vilification and ensuing reputational damage.
The PSPO is scheduled to remain in effect for 3 years, with the possibility of extending it beyond this period. It also remains in effect irrespective of season or ground conditions.
How did we get to a situation where the law has to be applied as such a blunt tool? I've no doubt that the PSPO has the full support of the National Trust, Peak District National Park Authority and the Fire Brigade. For years, these agencies have been at the forefront of putting out and putting right the consequences of wildfires set by people.
You only have to look back at this guidance poster from 2005, produced by Derbyshire Fire And Rescue Service to see how appeals for moderation and consideration have been long been ignored. But as Dominic Cummins' 30 mile drive to Barnard Castle (to test he was well enough to drive!) during Covid conspicuously illustrated; Human behaviour is very good at justifying how a particular rule doesn't apply because of special circumstances.
- The rehydration time is likely to be longer
- The resulting meal is not going to be as hot
- Some meals / brands may work better than others, requiring experimentation
- But, this might still be better than a cold cheese sandwich
- You need to use a very precise amount of water
- Even then the reaction might not get properly going
- The chemical and manufacture residue can't be particularly great for the environment
- Increased potential for waste packaging on the moors if not taken home and properly disposed of
- RTE meals have significantly fewer calories compared to dry rehydration meals ref my blog test: #018 Hill Food On Test