A WARNING has been issued after it emerged that a carelessly discarded barbecue caused the recent wild fire on Ilkley Moor.

As reported previously, 30 firefighters spent more than two hours putting out the blaze on May 10. Crews, including the specialist Wild Fire Unit, fought the fire after receiving a call from a member of the public around 7pm.

They used beaters and special blower machines – that 'suffocate' the flames – to extinguish the fire, which affected an area of about half a hectare.

There had been fears the fire could have been started deliberately but a spokesman for West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service said: "Following further enquiries we now believe the fire on Ilkley Moor on the evening of May 10 was due to careless disposal of a BBQ."

Mick Fox, Station Commander at Ilkley Fire Station, said: “People should not be having barbecues on the moorland.

“This fire shows the potential consequences of such behaviour and as we get into the summer months we urge people to be vigilant and help protect our precious moorland.

“Please also dispose of rubbish responsibly and take care to discard cigarettes with care.”

District Chief Commander, Neal Andrews, from Keighley Fire Station added: "Thankfully the conditions were nice and calm with no wind or it would have been a lot more devastating."

He also urged people enjoying the countryside to be mindful not to discard cigarettes or hold barbecues. Mr Andrews added: "It was quite hard work dealing with the fire and I would like to thank the local volunteers and landowners who helped."

Danny Jackson, countryside and rights of way manager at Bradford Council said: "We are grateful to the Fire Service and to the gamekeepers from Bingley Moor who assisted with a wildfire just behind White Wells. The area affected was mainly dry bracken and grass and covered an area of about 5,000 sq meters so the damage was thankfully, not too bad. We would remind people that the moors are currently extremely dry and the consequences of wildfire can be devastating – not just for wildlife (especially at this time of year with ground nesting chicks particularly vulnerable) but also the loss of habitat, the release of carbon stored in the peat into the atmosphere, smoke pollution and water pollution from suspended ash in water sources – which can be very expensive to remove from the drinking water supply, and of course the loss of amenity for walkers and others who use the moor."

The latest fire comes a year after Ilkley Moor was ravaged by two fires within the space of ten days in May 2016.

Mr Jackson added: "The areas on the moor affected by the fires we had last year appear to be recovering well and I suspect this one will too, because the fire doesn’t appear to have burnt too deep into the subsoil. When this happens, damage can take years to repair – the area burnt in 2006 west of Keighley Gate by a particularly large, prolonged fire, has still not fully recovered back to its pre-fire habitat and vegetation cover.

"For these reasons we would reiterate the request from the Fire Service, for people not to light fires or bring barbecues onto the moor and be very careful when discarding cigarettes and matches. There are severe penalties for deliberate fire setting and if anyone sees anything suspicious, we would urge them to contact Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111."