A BAN on lighting barbecues and setting off fireworks and sky lanterns on Saddleworth Moor has come into force – and anyone found breaching it can be fined £100.Two public space protection orders (PSPOs) are now in place to protect huge swathes of land on the moors above Oldham and Tameside following a spate of devastating fires in recent years.
It has been welcomed by the Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue service, which said last year’s wildfires stretched the life-saving service to “its limits”.
The timing of the introduction of the orders coincides with bonfire night, which bosses say is traditionally one of the busiest times of year for the emergency services.
The joint council action is aimed at preventing a repeat of last summer’s catastrophic fires which blazed for more than three weeks.
Despite repeated warnings from police and fire fighters, there have been several incidents reported this year of people continuing to take barbecues on to the moors.
Now if people breach the orders by lighting bonfires, barbecues or setting off fireworks or sky lanterns they will be fined the maximum £100 penalty.
And if offenders fail to pay the fine they could also face prosecution through the courts.
Councillor Arooj Shah, deputy leader of Oldham Council, said: “Our moorland is some of the most beautiful countryside in England and must be protected.
“Prohibiting barbecues and fires sends a clear and strong message and these orders are in place to stop damage to property and possibly life.
“We want residents and visitors to enjoy these areas but at the same time people need to be responsible and respect the moors.”
The apocalyptic fires last summer forced residents to be evacuated from their homes as the moors smouldered.
At its peak, the fire covered an area of seven square miles and saw the army deployed to support firefighters tackling the emergency.
Councillors say the wildfires killed animals, drained firefighting resources and cost the public hundreds of thousands of pounds.
Cllr Allison Gwynne, cabinet member for neighbourhoods, added: “For reasons that are very obvious, it’s at this time of year that the chance of fire is greatest, and the emergency services are stretched.
“Although last year’s moorland blaze was especially bad, and drew worldwide attention, fires are a constant hazard during the dry, summer months.
“The new PSPOs will help us combat this problem and protect people, wildlife and property.”
Damian O’Rourke, GMFRS area manager, added they were “really pleased” that the orders were being enforced across the moors.
“The PSPO coupled with our prevention and reassurance work around moorland fires will hopefully reduce the chance of this kind of fire breaking out and a repeat of last year’s incident – which stretched our service to its limits,” he said.
“Not only were our resources used, but those from neighbouring fire and rescue services and those across the UK, the army, private sector as well as many volunteers.
“We continue to ask people to take care, especially when on the moors, and never light a barbecue or start any kind of fire.
“These fires are devastating and the consequences so costly – to the community, the environment and to our service and resources.”
People are urged to dial 999 if they see a fire in the countryside, and not to put themselves at risk tackling it.
Any land that has a public right of way or public access is included in the PSPOs, although there are exemptions for private residential areas.
Signs will now be put in place around the designated area to advertise the orders, which will be in place for three years.