Investigations underway following arson attack on moorland near Sheffield

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A huge fire on the edge of Sheffield devastated over a square kilometre of moorland on Monday, and firefighters believe the blaze could have been started deliberately.

More than 40 firefighters from the Derbyshire Fire Service joined dozens of rangers from the Eastern Moors Partnership, The National Trust and the Peak District National Park teams after the fire on Big Moor, between Owler Bar and Curbar Edge, was spotted by Eastern Moors staff at noon on Monday.

Helicopter dropping water to damp down the fire. Picture: David Bocking.

Helicopter dropping water to damp down the fire. Picture: David Bocking.

The bone dry conditions of ground vegetation and lack of rain means the National Park is currently on high alert for moorland fires, and rangers have erected warning notices at access points around the Peak.

“In these very dry conditions, we’re asking the public to do two things to help us to look after our wildlife and these special places,” said Danny Udall from the Eastern Moors Partnership of the RSPB and the National Trust.

“Firstly, please don’t bring barbecues, cigarettes or any sources of fire onto the moors. And secondly, please be vigilant for us - if you see anything suspicious, or see any smoke or fire, please call 999 straight away as the quicker we can get to a fire, the smaller it will be.”

The moor’s livestock and red deer populations were able to get way from the Big Moor fire, but many small mammals, reptiles and snakes would not have been so lucky, said Danny. The fire is likely to have burned nests and killed chicks of lapwing, curlews, whinchat and skylark.

Fire crew evidence and sightings by members of the public earlier in the day suggest the Big Moor fire could well have been deliberately started.

“People are very passionate about this place, and so it’s difficult to understand why someone would choose to set fire to moorland, particularly when there’s wildlife involved,” said Danny.

“We can’t comprehend it. But we can’t be everywhere 24 hours a day, so that’s why it’s so important for the public to be our eyes and ears. At the moment we are all still on high alert.”

Anyone with any information should call police on 101.

Video courtesy Jack Bowring.