Moorland fire contained but peat continues to burn underground


A large moorland blaze in Lancashire has been contained but firefighters are continuing to douse smouldering peat below the surface.

Fire chiefs declared a major incident on Saturday after two large-scale blazes either side of Winter Hill near Bolton merged because of increased wind speed.

Colleagues from Greater Manchester, who have been battling a similar fire near Saddleworth Moor some 30 miles away, joined Lancashire Fire and Rescue and other crews from around the country to prevent it spreading further.

On Monday, Lancashire's chief fire officer Chris Kenny said a total of 29 fire engines remain on site along with specialist wildfire fighting teams, helicopters, drones and mountain rescue units.

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Their aim was to protect the public and the "vital infrastructure" of the Winter Hill TV and radio transmitting station, said Mr Kenny.

He said: "We are working with colleagues in the emergency services, local authorities, public health and other partners to respond to this major incident jointly.

"The fire is contained however the nature of moorland fires combined with the weather we are experiencing means that while we extinguish flames on the surface, peat underground continues to burn.

"We're using water on land and from the air to douse areas that continue to smoulder below the ground.

Winter Hill moorland fire
Winter Hill moorland fire

"We are urging members of the public to stay away from the Winter Hill area for their own safety and the safety of responders.

"People travelling to the scene, blocking access roads for emergency vehicles and flying drones hamper our response and compromise safety.

"Unfortunately we are also attending a number of wildfires in other areas of the county.

"My plea to residents and visitors when outdoors is that they take great care to prevent fires, particularly as this heat wave continues."

Winter Hill moorland fire
Winter Hill moorland fire

He said the support from the public had been "absolutely overwhelming" and donations received to crews were sufficient for the foreseeable future.

Mr Kenny added: "I'd also like to thank all those involved in this incident from Lancashire and beyond for their tireless work to protect the local community in extremely challenging conditions."

A 22-year-old man arrested by Lancashire Police on suspicion of starting one of the Winter Hill fires has been released under investigation.

Heading up to Winter Hill this morning to thank firefighters from a number of brigades for their on-going efforts. We're all truly grateful.

-- Andy Burnham (@AndyBurnhamGM) July 2, 2018

Public Health England has advised those affected by smoke near Winter Hill to stay indoors and keep doors and windows closed.

Similar advice applies to residents in Tameside and east of Manchester near Saddleworth Moor where more than 100 firefighters are still working in searing temperatures to keep control of the blaze which first broke out on June 24.

Soldiers from the Royal Regiment of Scotland who were scrambled to help out last week in Tameside remain on site, while the Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, has said he will ask the Government for similar military assistance at Winter Hill.

The cause of the Tameside fire is not known yet.

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