SOME of the borough’s most isolated locations have been included in a legal order which has been put into place to prevent a repeat of catastrophic fires taking hold in the future.

Despite repeated warnings from police and firefighters about the risks, there were several incidents reported this summer due to people taking barbecues to secluded moors.

A far-reaching public space protection order (PSPO) - which stretches from the Pennines to its furthest point at Dunford Bridge - has come into force to prevent bonfires, barbecues, fireworks and sky lanterns in the run-up to the Bonfire Night period, which traditionally starts this weekend.

Anyone caught flouting the PSPO - which is in place for a minimum of three years - will be given on-the-spot £100 fines or face prosecution through the court system if they opt against paying.

There are exemptions for private residential areas but any land that has a public right of way or public access is included in the scheme.

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During last year’s spate of fires between Marsden and Dunford Bridge, which broke out on June 24 and saw firefighters scrambled in from Barnsley’s four stations, around 4,500 acres of land was decimated.

According to figures obtained by the Chronicle, there were 86 call-outs to deliberate grassland fires during this year’s summer holiday period from the end of July to the beginning of September across the town - a reduction of more than 60 per cent on the previous summer - but concerns remain and the decision to implement the multi-council PSPO was taken.

Investigating officer Allison Gwynne, whose team has been working alongside neighbouring authorities including Barnsley, Kirklees, Tameside and Oldham, said: “Although the 2018 fires were the worst in living memory, moorland fires are not uncommon. They take place every year, and there’s strong evidence to suggest that the vast majority are the result of thoughtless behaviour.

“I believe the PSPO, used alongside education and information, helps us to significantly reduce the number of fires. They not only cause large-scale destruction but also needlessly endanger people and put a strain on already stretched services.

“Last year’s fires could so easily have resulted in tragedy. It was only the tireless efforts of so many firefighters, soldiers and others - as well as a hugely impressive community response - that ensured no lives were lost.”

A spokesman from the fire service said moorland blazes have been time-consuming in recent years.

We want the public to be able to enjoy the countryside and we do not wish to ruin anyone’s fun,” they added.

However, the impact of wildfires on local communities can be considerable, as can the impact on both the natural environment and the local economy where fires occur in areas where visitors may spend time.

“Fires on moorland can spread incredibly quickly and pose an immediate threat to anyone in the nearby area and potentially could threaten nearby properties.

“These fires take a considerable amount of fire service time and resources to extinguish.”