Moorland fire: gamekeepers say Buxton lantern event should be scrapped

Peak District gamekeepers are reporting catastrophic species loss as a result of the fire on Saddleworth Moor near Oldham.
Peak District gamekeepers are reporting catastrophic species loss as a result of the fire on Saddleworth Moor near Oldham.

Peak District gamekeepers have renewed calls for an upcoming Chinese lantern festival to be snuffed out after seeing the devastation caused by the huge wildfire on Saddleworth Moor.

They say that Lights Fest, due to be held at Buxton Raceway on July 28, poses a significant danger to the surrounding moorland given the recent dry and hot weather conditions.

Amanda Anderson, director of the Moorland Association, said: “After what we have seen this past week it is a recipe for disaster.

“The lanterns look very pretty going up but when they come down they could very easily start another fire and the wire left behind is very damaging to livestock.”

She added: “I call on the festival’s organisers to bow to common sense and cancel Lights Fest to minimise the risks of any further devastating wildfires.”

Responding to earlier concerns about possible fire risk, the events organisers claimed they have a “perfect safety record.”

A spokesman said: “The rice-paper body of the lantern is fire-resistant to prevent the flame from travelling.

“We have designed the fuel source in such a way that the flame is completely out before the lanterns descend and land.

They added: “Regardless, we always have a fire crew waiting in the landing zone as a precaution.”

Gamekeepers working to combat the Saddleworth Moor wildfire are reporting catastrophic loss of species.

Richard Bailey, a member of the Peak District Moorland Group, said: “Trying to prevent and control wildfires is a huge task and we have to use all the expertise that we, the gamekeeping community, have built up over centuries.”

He also defended the practice of intentionally burning vegetation to reduce fire risks, a practice which has been criticised by environmental groups including the RSPB.

Richard said: “We need to manage these complex moorlands sympathetically. This includes mowing alongside carefully burning the heather in a controlled way in the winter.

“This creates fire breaks and reduces the fuel load for wildfires in the summer. This is a proven technique which is constantly modernised and has widespread scientific support.”