‘It was like the sky was on fire’
Wirral wildfire causes devastation - plus the rest of your weekly briefing
Dear readers — welcome to this week’s briefing from The Post. The Wirral photographer Dave Mort took some incredible drone footage showing the scale of the wildfire that broke out in Parkgate on the Wirral on Saturday evening, and we have a report on that below.
Today’s briefing also has some recommendations for a sunny week ahead, including seal watching at Hilbre Island, and a recommended podcast about whether the epidemic of “spiking-by-injection” actually happened.
If you missed it, our weekend read was an in-depth look at the turbulent politics of Liverpool City Council and the influence of the commissioners on decision-making there. Read that here. And to contribute to Part 2, on or off the record, please just email firstname.lastname@example.org.
☀️ This week’s weather
The big story: ‘It was like the sky was on fire’
The top line: On Saturday evening, a wildfire broke out in the marshlands at Parkgate while hundreds of residents watched from the seawall. The fire is thought to have been started deliberately. Drone footage from Wirral photographer Dave Mort shows the scale of the fire, which covered about 1 sq km.
It began around 6pm and died down at 10pm. An eyewitness told the BBC the fire took hold quickly, saying: "There were so many people there enjoying the beautiful sunset. I've never seen anything like it. It was like the sky was on fire."
Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service spent 15 hours at the scene and left at 10am the next morning. Because of unstable ground, they had to leave the fire to burn itself out.
Police are looking for three boys and a girl, aged between 14 and 15, who were seen in the area when the fire began.
Impact: Across the marshland is Burton Mere Wetlands on the Dee Estuary, an area of special scientific interest and home to Cetti’s warblers and bitterns, two of the most endangered birds in the UK. Marsh harriers were also beginning to build their nests on the land, which are now lost to the fire. Those birds are looked after by RSPB Liverpool, who are still assessing the full damage inflicted.
In a tweet, the RSPB said: “We’re still hurting from the fire that ravaged Neston Reedbed yesterday evening, but we’re overwhelmed by the public support.”
Wildfire planning: While the wildfire is being treated as deliberate, climate scientists have warned we should expect more fires with increasing climate change. Firefighters have already dealt with 48 significant wildfires in 2022 — 20 were over this weekend. Speaking to the BBC, Professor David Demeritt of Kings College London said:
Here [in the UK], the fires are smaller in extent and intensity. But what they will cause is lots of smoke and other atmospheric emissions. This is likely to make our air quality problems worse, particularly if fires occur upwind of urban areas that are already struggling with poor air quality.
Last week on The Post
We spoke to members of the seafaring community in Liverpool who are speaking out against P&O dismissing and replacing its workers with cheaper labour. Mollie met Darren, a former seafarer and union leader, and Nate, who used to work for P&O. “Why can’t the opportunities be for kids from Bootle like myself?” Darren says. Read that piece — members-only.
We reported on the selection of Ellie Byrne, who is set to become Liverpool’s youngest councillor next month after her father — the MP Ian Byrne — quit the Everton ward. Is really a teenager, as the whispers against her suggest? And did she win the selection fair and square? Read that here — members-only.
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Local news in brief
P&O ships on the Liverpool-Dublin route are now being crewed with Filipino seamen and kitchen staff paid below the minimum wage, unions are claiming. “Shipping companies which are registered in other countries and operating routes from UK ports to Europe can pay below the minimum wage because they are exempt from legislation,” explains the Independent. More here.
Lowkey, a British rapper due to perform at a National Union of Students annual conference for students of marginalised groups at ACC Liverpool has pulled out after Jewish students raised concerns over his past comments calling Israel “a racist endeavour”. More here.
A £250,000 restoration of the ceiling on St George’s Hall is beginning. Restoration specialists will remove loose paint work, check plaster work and repaint where needed. The work is expected to be completed by June and the venue will stay open throughout. More here.
The Covid-19 case rate for the Liverpool City Region is 679.6, up 32.8% in a week compared to England’s 743.8, up 36.3%. Cases are highest in Sefton, lowest in Liverpool.
🦭 A Wirral-based wellbeing and walking group are hosting a seal watching day on the Dee Estuary on Saturday. At their peak, the seal colony is up to 800. The group cannot guarantee you’ll see them up close, but encourage you to “walk without expectations”. Book here.
🫖 Oh Me Oh My, the tea house with a very impressive roof terrace overlooking the Liver Building, are hosting a Mother’s Day afternoon tea accompanied by live acoustic music on Sunday. Book here.
🌅 Sunrise/Sunset, a new exhibition at dot-art gallery, begins this Friday. There will be landscape art, photographic collages and paintings offering different interpretations of light. The exhibition guide says you will get “a sense of the beauty, resilience and optimism nature has to offer”. More here.
🎉 The second iteration of Festevol, the very popular music festival at Hope Anti-Supermarket in New Brighton, is on Saturday. Tickets are £10.
🎨 Williamson Art Gallery are hosting another of their hugely popular children’s art workshop on Saturday. Book here.
🎶 Max Richardson, a freelance composer from Merseyside, has created a great album constructed of voice recordings of people around the world telling their pandemic story in their own words accompanied by ambient music. It’s available to listen to here.
Home of the week
Ok we’ve gone big this week: An eight-bedroom detached home — designed by the same architect who did the Philharmonic Hall — just came on the market in Blundellsands. Boringly, the price is only available on request.
Our favourite reads
Tortoise, the long form media publication, released a fascinating podcast investigating last year’s reports of women being spiked by injection, including six women in Liverpool. Looking at the evidence, they say it is now possible to say that the alleged assaults didn’t happen. “I think the biggest shock, the thing that I found most heart-wrenching wasn’t the notion of whether the spiking itself happens, it’s more that women feared it, and thought it was entirely plausible,” says the host.
We loved this essay in the Guardian by Lucy Easthope, a leading disaster specialist from Liverpool who sizes up the scale of catastrophes like nuclear incidents, chemical attacks, train and plane crashes, volcanoes and tsunamis, and assesses what can be done about them. “The toughest part is ‘demobbing’, trying to fit back into your family roles again. Refocusing your brain on small talk and a grocery list. Steadying your nerves when you reach for a household object — a toothbrush, a pen — the brand that you’ve seen in the wreckage.”
A lovely tribute to Bryan Hibbard in The Times, a consultant obstetrician from Liverpool who was the first doctor to observe a need for folic acid supplementation in pregnancy. He died in September last year. “Based in the 1960s at the Mill Road maternity hospital in Liverpool, one of the largest maternity hospitals in the country and in an area where a high number of women were poor, sick and malnourished, Bryan had witnessed a high incidence of obstetric-related problems including anaemia and foetal abnormalities.”
A powerful feature in The Conversation by Alison Gregory and Sandra Walklate, a sociology professor at Liverpool University, discussing why women stay in abusive relationships. “Survivors may be asked by incredulous friends, relatives and professionals, ‘How can you still love them after what they’ve done?’ Love is a strong motivator, and if we don’t give permission for it to be voiced, we risk alienating survivors and further isolating them — which is just what abusers want.”
Photo of the week
A summer scene in New Brighton, by our regular photographer Hannah Cassidy.
Letters from readers
A fascinating insight into the murky world of Liverpool City Council (‘Special report: Inside Liverpool’s turbulent politics’), ScouseLawyer
Young councillors should be encouraged (‘How did Ellie Byrne inherit her father’s council seat?’). I was elected to County Ward in 1976 as a young energetic 23 year old and carried on for 34 years. Her age or parentage should not be held against her. We should always look for “the content of the character”, Paul Clark
The outrageous lack of A level opportunities in Knowsley has been a “priority” for over 5 years now (‘Want to study A-levels in Knowsley? You will have to leave’)! Disappointing doesn’t cover it for those students who have had to travel outside the borough or decided against A level study because of the lack of local support, Karen McCormack
Nearly 30 years ago I had to travel out of the borough to study the A-Levels I wanted to do (‘Want to study A-levels in Knowsley? You will have to leave’). So did mates of mine. There was at least some significant provision in the area then. Now there is next to nothing at all. Shocking for an area with a population of c.150,000, Gareth Roberts