The number of deliberately started wildfires in West Yorkshire has more than doubled in a year, according to a Freedom of Information request made to West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service.
There were 1,941 deliberately set wildfires in 2018/19, up from 911 in 2017/18, a rise of 113%. The increase is noticeable: between 2014/15 and 2017/18, deliberately set wildfires rose from by just 17%, from 778 to 911 wildfires a year.
Meanwhile, accidentally set wildfires rose from 354 in 2017/18 to 1,138 in 2018/19, increasing by 221%. Overall, wildfires have risen by 143% since 2017/18, up from 1,265 to 3,079 in 2018/19.
In just four days in July 2018, West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service were called to 438 open area fires. A month earlier, Saddleworth Moor, on the Manchester side of the Peak District, saw a huge fire that forced residents of Stalybridge to leave their homes.
In a statement, West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue provided some reassurance, stating that ‘Deliberately started’ does not always mean arson. People can deliberately ignite a cigarette which accidentally causes a moorland fire. We would then record this as ‘deliberate fire’ even though it is not arson, and there is no intent behind it. It is just the ignition itself which is deliberate.”
Multiple files and screenshots. Each year runs from the 1st of April to the 31st of March.
Elizabeth and Isabel decided to cover this story because, “We both witnessed the damage first-hand. We both care about the environment and wanted to spread the word about what must be done to save it.”