Much of the heather moorland we see today has been shaped by the process of burning small areas of heather on a rotational basis in the winter months to favour grouse. Experts from Natural England are currently reviewing the impacts of these practices in their Upland Evidence Review (http://publications.naturalengland.org.uk/publication/5978072?category=5968803).
However it is the impact of summer wildfires caused deliberately (e.g. arson) or by carelessness (e.g. discarding cigarettes) that seriously threatens the fragile moorland habitats of the Peak District, as large areas can be destroyed very quickly.
Wildfires occur during the drier months when the water table is lower. The peat is drier and more flammable, making the moors very combustible. These fires can extend for several miles, burn deep into the peat, and sterilise the soil.
In addition, early summer fires can have a disastrous effect on wildlife when birds are nesting and sheep lambing. Moorland fires pose a huge financial burden because they are inaccessible, so specialised equipment, including helicopters, is often used to supply the water needed to control the fires.
Between 1976 and 2006 there were 365 reported summer wild moorland fires in the Peak District.
Click here to view our Research Notes on Wildfires and Controlled Burning (opens in a new window)
Follow this link to find out about The Peak District Fire Operations Group