Free app teaches children about wildfire prevention and bog conservation

18 July 2018
Black Hill 2003 and 2017
Free app teaches children about wildfire prevention!
 
With the risk of moorland wildfires remaining high, Moors for the Future Partnership has released a game to help children learn about the importance of wet boggy moors in preventing wildfires from spreading. The game centres around Lizzy the Lizard, a moorland critter whose home has been devastated by wildfire. Children can become Lizzy’s heroes by putting out wildfires, flying helicopters and planting “bogtastic” bog plants!
 
Former industrial pollution led to the drying-out of many previously healthy peat bogs, which have added to the wildfire risk in the recent exceptionally dry conditions.
 
What destroyed Lizzy’s home?
 
Blanket bog is a type of bog that is found only on moorland. The Peak District National Park and South Pennine moors have a significant amount of the UK’s blanket bog, but much of it has been in a terrible state due to the legacy of industrial pollution from surrounding towns and cities. Pollution from the mighty coal factories of Manchester, the great cloth factories of Leeds and the powerful steel factories of Sheffield all blew pollution out of their chimneys. The pollution landed on the delicate blanket bogs on the moors above and killed everything off, leaving nothing but bare peat, which dries out easily. The plants that did grow were suited to the dry conditions.
 
Wildfire can burn quickly and deeply when the peat is dry and the lack of rain this summer has left it even drier. Peat fuels the flames of wildfire, and extinguishing them becomes a gruelling and exhausting task. Wildfires can be truly devastating. On struggling blanket bogs, wildfires wipe out what little plant life managed to survive the industrial pollution. They kill animals including ground-nesting birds and sheep as they go. They burn through the peat until it releases the carbon it had been storing for millennia.
 
Why are blanket bogs important?
 
Healthy blanket bogs are wet. And the wetter they are the better they are at stopping wildfires spreading. Not only are they nature’s fire defences, they are also home to many unique animals and plants, and they provide important benefits for people too. They store carbon which is important for combatting climate change, filter water to make it clean and drinkable and help to reduce the risk of flooding in downstream communities.
 
Dampening the flames
 
In 2003, Moors for the Future Partnership began its work to protect vast areas of moorland across the Peak District National Park and South Pennines, which had been left devastated by 200 hundred years of industrial pollution and fires. Two months after the partnership started, a huge wildfire on Bleaklow, in the Peak District, destroyed three square miles of moorland and burned for five days. Plumes of smoke caused Manchester Airport to close.
 
Fast-forward 15 years and the Partnership – led by the Peak District National Park Authority - has transformed areas of bare peat across the area, with conservation, science and monitoring works.
 
Unfortunately, this summer has been exceptionally dry so far and the risk of wildfire is high. Large areas of moorland have been damaged by the recent Tameside wildfire and so the Peak District National Park Authority, working in collaboration with Moors for the Future Partnership, set up Operation FireWatch. This carefully planned operation placed volunteers at moorland vantage points throughout the National Park to look out for fires. 
 
This emergency response to the summer wildfires is part of the Partnership’s long-term aim of protecting blanket bogs from the devastation of wildfires. Community engagement, and working with children to encourage responsible behaviour on the moors is another crucial part of this goal.
 
The free Lizzy Lizard app is a fun way to encourage children to care for our bogtastic blanket bogs. By inspiring future generations about Lizzy’s incredible home, the game aims to educate them in how to help prevent wildfires.
 
Be a Bogtastic Champion!
 
Jody Vallance, a partnership officer who helped develop the app, said: “Playing the Lizzy Lizard game helps connect players to the nature on their doorstep and involve them in the protection of our precious blanket bogs. But there are other things we can all do to prevent wildfire incidents as well. We can all prevent wildfires by not taking any flammable material including barbecues, campfires or cigarettes onto the moors. And if we see a wildfire phone 999 straight away. It’s these small and easy things, which have value way beyond their effort, that make us Bogtastic Champions”.
 
This free, fun and interactive app has proved a hit with children (and many adults too!) on board the Bogtastic Van – a ‘moor in a van’ that’s travelling to towns and cities across the Peak District, South Pennines and beyond. 
 
Visit the Playstore to download the free Lizzy Lizard app and become a Bogtastic Champion!
 
You can also find more educational resources here: http://www.moorsforthefuture.org.uk/educational-resources

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