HIGH praise has been paid today to fire crews and other emergency workers involved in the battle to extinguish the Ilkley Moor blaze.

The fire, near White Wells, broke out on Saturday.

Firefighters from Keighley and across the region have been at the scene all weekend, using water jets and beaters to tackle the flames.

A helicopter was also brought in to drop water.

Keighley and Ilkley MP John Grogan, who visited the command centre at the scene yesterday, says the fire crews – and police and Bradford Council – have "played a blinder" in dealing with the incident.

"Protocols of how to work together in combating wildfires – which in recent years have been carefully agreed and trialled – worked a treat," he said.

"All councils in West Yorkshire, plus the emergency services and landowners, now plan for such contingencies under the umbrella of the South Pennine Fire Operations Group.

"The sheer athleticism and determination of the firefighters, lugging heavy equipment in searing heat up the moorside, has rightly been much remarked upon.

"More than one onlooker reported seeing young firefighters sink to the ground as they came down off the moor, as if they had run a marathon."

Mr Grogan said there were also countless other "unsung heroes", including a council warden who was just finishing a shift in Bradford city centre on Saturday afternoon when she received a call to go to Ilkley, where she worked well into the night marshalling people off the moor and then returned the following morning to help police.

"The council’s countryside officer was also on hand – putting his expert knowledge of the local landscape at the disposal of the fire service’s wildfire specialist," added Mr Grogan.

"Within two hours of the first signs of smoke on Saturday afternoon, the council had authorised the expenditure of £17,500 on a helicopter to water bomb the area around the fire – which was very uneven ground and difficult to access.

"Hundreds of gallons of water picked up from a nearby reservoir were dropped on the site, which by yesterday morning was smouldering rather than blazing.

"The fear of the fire reigniting, however, remains a very real one so long as temperatures remain high."

People are being warned to take extra care when out and about on moorland and in the countryside.

Advice to anyone planning to visit the countryside during the current warm spell includes:

◾Clear up and take your rubbish home after picnics

◾Observe all signs and notices - they are there for a reason

◾Follow the National Trust Countryside Code

◾Don’t leave glass bottles - not only can they hurt people and animals, but they can magnify the sun’s rays and start a fire

◾Never be tempted to light a fire in the countryside and only barbecue in authorised areas

◾Never throw lighted cigarette ends onto the ground or out of the window of vehicles or trains. Always ensure that they are completely extinguished and disposed of responsibly.

West Yorkshire Police have confirmed that three men – aged 19, 23 and 24 – have been arrested in connection with the fire.