Sheffield Moor burning: Mother tells how young daughter with asthma struggled home from school

Rebecca's daughter, who attends Hunter's Bar Primary School, needed to use her reliever inhaler four times during the day of the moor burnings last week.
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Deliberate fires on moors near Sheffield flared up the asthma of a school girl and made her struggle to walk home, a concerned mum has told The Star.

Rebecca's young daughter, who attends Hunter's Bar Primary School, dealt with coughing fits and had to increase her inhaler usage over the following days after the fires. The mother and daughter are both asthmatic and Rebecca said their health had noticably worsened since the burnings.

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"She's taking reliever inhalers every day now," said Rebecca, who asked to withold her surname to protect her young daughter. "Our asthma is well controlled and she had a flare-up at school when she wouldn't usually need anything to help her."

The smoke coming into Sheffield as a result of the moor fires on October 9 was all it took to affect the girl's often mild asthma. Reliever inhalers are different to everyday inhalers and offer relief from breathlessness, coughing and other serious symptons of asthma.

Rebecca said: "Every time you take these inhalers it is two doses, which she needed four times that day. It made me really anxious because we are not bad asthmatics and it made me think how much worse it could be for someone more serious.

"She was telling me about her school day and she had to leave the classroom to get her inhaler because it was smokey. She was coughing so much she wasn't taking a breath."

Sheffield city centre disappeared into the haze.Sheffield city centre disappeared into the haze.
Sheffield city centre disappeared into the haze.
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Due to the severity of the smokes effect on the young girl, the usually easy 20 minute walk home took 45 minutes.

"We had to go so much slower," Rebecca said, "She wasn't able to do it."

Even when they arrived home and closed all the windows, the pair felt little relief, with the youngster coughing through the night and spending the following days still recovering.

Rebecca said: "For me, it felt like something was irritating my lungs. The best way I can describe it is like having acne on your lungs.

The fire above Redmires Reservoirs.The fire above Redmires Reservoirs.
The fire above Redmires Reservoirs.
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"I had three days of breathlessness until it started to get back to normal... I have never experienced anything like it."

The fires and smoke prompted significant concerns from locals in Sheffield over the pollution the fires would be causing. Sheffield MP Olivia Blake called for enforcement.

She tweeted: "Moorland burning is a dangerous, destructive practice. Every year, 260,000 tonnes of CO2 are released from burning on peat in England. It also has incredibly worrying public health impacts.

"We urgently need to see a ban, our lungs protected and our peatlands restored. I've written to Sheffield City Council and Natural England to see what more enforcement can be undertaken."

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Data showed air pollution had risen to more than five times the healthy limit as the smoke blanketed Sheffield city centre and many online called on the South Yorkshire Mayor, Oliver Coppard, to act - which he responded to, saying it is "not something we have to power to stop".

Climate journalist Rei Takver urged the mayor to take on a visual role in opposing the practice of grouse burning, lobbying the Labour Party to put a ban promise in their manifesto, or putting pressure on the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to ban the practice as a public health measure.

South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue said they were aware of controlled burns at Redmires, Midhopes and Langsett on the day of the fires. Smoke was seen and photographed drifting down Rivelin Valley and covering the city cnetre throughout the afternoon.

Amanda Anderson, director of the Moorland Association, said: "Those conducting conservation and wildfire mitigation burning management on our moors do their best to avoid weather conditions that allow smoke to drift over towns and cities whenever possible. It is regrettable that local residents have had concerns on this occasion.

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"By undertaking small controlled burns, a variety of habitats is created, which benefits upland species and reduces the severity of wildfire in the spring and summer.

"Peer-reviewed scientific research shows that curlews are four times as likely to breed successfully on a grouse moor, and other species also benefit from patches of shorter vegetation, along with new shoots that are eaten by grouse, sheep and mountain hare.”

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