Man arrested in moorland blaze arson probe freed

A 20-year-old man who was arrested over a major moorland blaze has been released under investigation.

The man, from Wigan, was arrested on Friday morning by officers investigating the fire on Winter Hill, near Bolton.

He was being held on suspicion of arson with intent to endanger life.

A Lancashire Police spokesman said the investigation is continuing.

The arrest came after fire crews from Greater Manchester were released from tackling the blaze after making good progress.

Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham, who visited the scene on Friday morning, said: "I wanted to come here again today to say a huge thank you to all the crews fighting this fire.

"Following assessments of the incident ground on the Greater Manchester side of the hill yesterday, and in consultation with LFRS, today we are able to scale back some of GMFRS's resources from that area.

"Good progress is being made and over the weekend there will be five GMFRS appliances supporting Lancashire."

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

A 22-year-old man was arrested last week on suspicion of starting one of the fires and later released under investigation.

Army troops assisting firefighters tackling a blaze on Saddleworth Moor, about 30 miles from Winter Hill, were stood down on Friday after nine days.

Around 100 troops from the Royal Regiment of Scotland have been involved in the operation but the order for military support will not be extended into the weekend.

Major Phil Morgan, Officer Commanding Alpha Company 4 SCOTS, said: "It has been a demanding but truly worthwhile task and my soldiers have met the challenge with absolute commitment and pride in their role, showing they are always ready to serve."

Earlier this week, police said the fire, which started on Sunday June 24, was being treated as arson.

Witnesses reported people lighting a bonfire on the moorland above Stalybridge, Greater Manchester, about 50 minutes before the first emergency call was made.

Members of A Company Guns Platoon supporting Great Manchester Fire and Rescue Service on Saddleworth Moor (Sgt Donald Todd/PA)
Members of A Company Guns Platoon supporting Great Manchester Fire and Rescue Service on Saddleworth Moor (Sgt Donald Todd/PA)

The public was urged to stay away from the Winter Hill area over the weekend as firefighters continued to tackle the blaze.

In a video message shared by the fire service, area manager Steve Morgan said: "We'd ask, please, that you allow us to continue to deal with this incident.

"We have got some momentum behind the tactical plan and what we are looking to do is to return the moorland to the local community as soon as we are able, but in assisting us to do that, please, for this weekend, please stay off the moorland and allow us to go about our work."

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