Blaze on marshes threatens wildlife

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Parkgate marshlands in the Wirral peninsula

Parkgate marshlands on the Wirral peninsula

A blaze has destroyed a picturesque Wirral marshland, affecting the habitats of  thousands of birds and other species.

The fire started in Parkgate village, near Neston, on Sunday afternoon and spread rapidly across the marshes.

However, local businesses in Parkgate, such as The Ship Hotel, are still optimistic for the summer.

A hotel spokesperson told JMU Journalism: “Thankfully the fire was to the left hand side of Parkgate and as a result it will hopefully have no impact on our tourism here.

“It has left damage to the marshlands which we are hoping will disappear quickly ready for the summer. It did however bring people down to Parkgate on sunday who popped down for a ice cream to watch them put out the fire.”

Four fire engines, including two from Ellesmere Port and one from Chester, were called out just after 3.30pm to extinguish many small fires over a large area. The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) evaluated the damage to the area at the weekend.

Dan Trotman, RSPB visitor development officer for Dee Estuary, said the ground was dry because of the weather over the past month and there was a strong wind that made the fire spread quickly.

He told JMU Journalism: “Because of the cold weather we have had fortunately not a lot of wildlife has settled and we are actually quite lucky and have not lost nests.

DESTROYED: Harvest Mice are one of the species that has had their habitats destroyed by the fire ©Flickr/Andrew Smithson

DESTROYED: Harvest Mice are one of the species that has had their habitats destroyed by the fire ©Flickr/Andrew Smithson

“But that doesn’t mean the loss of habitats, such as the reeds and the salt marsh lost, will not have a bad effect. It means birds will struggle to find enough space to nest and for the other wildlife, such as harvest mice, they may have burnt alive when fleeing the fire.

“Because of the local and national news coverage of the incident, it could increase tourism and many of the visitors don’t always know that this area is part of the RSPB reserve and it’s a vibrant wildlife habitat.”

The fire service used hose reel jets and handheld beaters to put out the fires and spent over an hour bringing the blaze under control.

Police have started an investigation into the suspected arson attack. The blaze was thought to have started in the Moorfields area and the fire spread as far as Mostyn House.

Residents expressed their anger of the fire on a community website for Neston. One resident, James, commented: “I hope the vandals that did this will be caught and punished for ruining the lovely scenery.  It’s absolutely appalling!”

 

About Kate Molyneux, JMU Journalism