Big "cat" helps to protect rare birds on South Pennines Moorland

Posted: 27.07.11

An eight-wheeled all-terrain amphibious vehicle has joined the fight against moorland fires in the South Pennines.

The Argocat, which would not look out of place on Thunderbirds, will extend the reach of firefighters faced with raging moorland fires, similar to those that swept the South Pennines this spring. Thanks to this versatile machine firefighters will be able to protect the habitat of moorland wildlife, such as the endangered Twite, as well as deal more effectively with town centre flooding and emergency situations in other difficult to reach locations.

Charlotte Weightman, Habitat Intervention Officer for the RSPB Twite Recovery Project, said that moorland fires, especially during the nesting season, have a huge impact on Twite, which have seen their numbers decimated in this area.

“It is estimated that the Twite population decreased by 80 percent in the South Pennines between 1990 and 2000. We are now working to protect their habitat and food source but as they are ground nesting birds moorland fires can destroy their nesting habitat,” said Charlotte, who welcomed the arrival of the Argocat.

Todmorden Fire Station is the base for the vehicle, which has been purchased by Yorkshire Water. Lisa Harrowsmith, Yorkshire Water’s Senior Rural Surveyor, explained: “We were keen to invest and support the work that the fire services do in protecting these valuable moorlands, not just because of the wildlife but also because of the devastating effect wildfire can have on water quality and in causing pollution.”

And thanks to co-ordination through Pennine Prospect’s Fire Operations Group the Argocat will be available for fire fighting throughout the South Pennines, an area that covers the uplands of Greater Manchester, Lancashire and West Yorkshire.

Danny Jackson, chairman of the Fire Operations Group, said the group worked closely with landowners and all three fire services of the area to co-ordinate action on preventing and fighting moorland fires.

“The fire services have invested in training and equipment, which has given landowners more confidence. The fact that Yorkshire Water is prepared to fund equipment is testament to the work of the Fire Operations Group and will be a great boon to firefighters,” said Mr Jackson.

The Argocat, imported from Canada, has outstanding off-road capability, which means it can get close to fires in the most inaccessible places. It is also equipped with a fire-fogging unit that sprays water directly onto the flames or onto the advancing fire front to dampen the area and prevent the fire spreading.

Todmorden Fire Station Commander and Lead Wildfire Officer for the area, Robin Ward, said: This is a fantastic piece of equipment and will greatly assist us and our neighbouring fire and rescue services in fighting moorland and grass fires. We are grateful to Yorkshire Water for funding this vehicle. It is a useful addition to our armoury.”

Yorkshire Water United Utilities Rochdale Metropolitan Borough Council Oldham Metropolitan Borough Council National Farmers Union
South Pennines Association Lancashire County Council Pennine Heritage Kirklees Council Calderdale Council
Bradford District Council Northern Rail Natural England Environment Agency The National Trust