Fire crews battle 'challenging circumstances' to tackle moorland blazes

A major operation is under way to fight moorland fires across Lancashire, with 36 fire engines, more than 100 firefighters and 100 soldiers battling the blazes for a second week.

Four schools are closed again in Tameside amid a fire on a huge swathe of Saddleworth Moor east of Manchester, while across the region to the north west of the city, near Bolton, another massive tract of open land on Winter Hill is ablaze.

Fire chiefs have described the "apocalyptic" fires as unprecedented in their scale, with the Saddleworth Moor fire now stretching into a second week as fire engines are drafted in from across the country.

A 22-year-old man arrested on suspicion of starting a fire has been released under investigation.

On Monday morning, Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service (GMFRS) said it has 12 fire crews plus specialist appliances on the Tameside fires and 10 at Winter Hill, where Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service has a further 14 fire engines on the scene, along with two from Tyne and Wear.

Around 100 soldiers from the Royal Regiment of Scotland who were scrambled to help out last week have had their initial 48-hour deployment extended as the fires continue to burn.

As well as firefighting in the heatwave, battling smoke and flames, crews have been hampered by members of the public blocking the narrow moorland access roads to visit the scene to take photos.

Others have been leaving their vehicles to tramp over moorland to get footage by flying drones.

Local MP Sir Lindsay Hoyle reiterated the message from fire chiefs, asking the public to stay away from the moors while the firefighters do their job.

Fire crews from across the UK will be travelling up to Greater Manchester throughout the day to provide further support, while local fire stations have been inundated with gifts of food, water and insect repellent for exhausted crews, with local Tesco stores also donating goods.

Assistant county fire officer Dave Keelan, of GMFRS, said: "Crews are working in extremely difficult and challenging circumstances.

"It's not just the weather that's difficult but also the geography of the site - getting the equipment, the firefighters and the water up to where the firefighters are is really challenging.

"But I can't praise crews enough - they've done a fantastic job and are working so hard.

"The temperature is one of the most challenging aspects for firefighters at the moment - working in fire kit with the sun beating down is really difficult and we are rotating them as much as we can.

"It's really challenging to have resources across two major incidents in Greater Manchester whilst trying to maintain business as usual but we have been extremely fortunate and I thank colleagues from up and down the country who have sent fire engines and officers to support us and also the military who have done a fantastic job supporting us.

"We don't know the cause of the Tameside incident yet.

"We have a team of fire investigators doing some work on that but I would just like to urge the public to be really careful with discarded cigarettes and glass bottles - none of us want to destroy the wildlife and the natural beauty that we have got around us in Greater Manchester so if the public can take extra care when they are out and about in areas like this it would be much appreciated."

Tameside Council said four schools, Buckton Vale, Millbrook, St Raphael's and Mossley Hollins, will be closed on Monday.

Advice from Public Health England remains the same - residents in areas affected by smoke should stay indoors, keep their doors and windows closed, and tune in to the local radio station for advice and information.