Army could remain on Saddleworth Moor during weekend as fire rages


Fire chiefs want the Army to extend its stay on Saddleworth Moor through the weekend to help keep control of moorland blazes in the area.

Scottish soldiers from the 100-strong A Company of the 4th Battalion, Royal Regiment of Scotland, known as the Highlanders, joined forces on Thursday with more than 100 firefighters when they were deployed to the scene in Greater Manchester for an initial 48-hour deployment.

Seven square miles of land between Tameside and Oldham had gone up in flames and blanketed the Greater Manchester region and beyond in smoke and ash.

Saddleworth Moor fire
Saddleworth Moor fire

On Friday the fires on the peat-embedded terrain and dry shrubland were contained but could take weeks to be fully extinguished with no prospect of rain in the next week.

With possible changes in wind conditions and stretched resources throughout the region in mind, Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester, wants to extend the Army presence for another three days.

He said: "This has probably been the busiest week for Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service (GMFRS) in living memory.

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"I don't think anyone can remember a busier week but when called upon they have been there for us and we are incredibly grateful to them.

"As it is an ongoing situation and because there has been in some places a flaring up today of the fire, we believe we continue to need large numbers of people out there providing support so a request has gone in from Greater Manchester to the Government for the extension of the military support.

"We are hoping that we will be able to extend that by three days.

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"We are incredibly grateful for the help that has given so far by the Government and the military, and we are hope that by continuing to work in that way we will continue to bring this situation under control."

GMFRS acting chief fire officer Dawn Docx said: "We are containing the fire.

"It's taking a lot of effort, a lot of resources, not only from Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service but also from fire and rescue services from up and down the country, and we are very grateful for the military being part of that as well.

"It's currently being contained.

"We can't say when it might be extinguished. It could be days, it might even be weeks.

Heading back up later today to thank @manchesterfire, other brigades & military for their incredible efforts in very difficult conditions.

-- Andy Burnham (@AndyBurnhamGM) June 29, 2018

"This weather obviously isn't helping at all.

"What we need is a real downpour and that will do the trick.

"I can't speak highly enough about the support the communities have also given us.

"They have been donating food, resources and that has been wonderful to have their support.

"We are continue to do our best in order to contain this very difficult situation."

Saddleworth Moor fire
Saddleworth Moor fire

Air quality in the affected areas continue to be monitored by Public Health England and Tameside Council with people continuing to be urged to keeps windows and doors shut.

Meanwhile some 30 miles away, fire crews in neighbouring Lancashire remain at the scene of a grass fire on moorland on Winter Hill near Rivington which broke out on Thursday afternoon.

A total of 80 firefighters, including crews from Greater Manchester and Cumbria, battled to contain the fire and ensure the flames did not spread to communications masts nearby.

Lancashire Police said later that a 22-year-old man from Bolton has been arrested on suspicion of arson with intent to endanger life.

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