Garstang farm machinery company joins moorland fire fight

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A Garstang farm machinery company has helped create a new way of tackling moorland fires throughout the North West.

Staff at Primex in Brockholes Way, Claughton-on-Brock, have been working with United Utilities and both Greater Manchester and Lancashire Fire and Rescue services to create a new machine capable of getting large amounts of water to hard-to-reach locations.

The new unit has loosely been based on an agricultural slurry tanker. Its double wheels mean it can be towed safely over soft land using a tractor. It’s easy to fill and at 5,455 litres (1,200 gallons), its capacity is more than five times that of a typical fire engine.

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The new machine is also fitted with a special manifold and pressure release valves to allow up to six 150m hoses operating at one time.

How the new tanker looksHow the new tanker looks
How the new tanker looks

>>>Click here to read about the devastation caused by the Winter Hill fire

The need for such a machine was identified by Andrew Ryding and Dan Fowler who work for United Utilities, after both saw the devastation caused by the blazes on Darwen Moor and Winter Hill first hand.

Dan, a land agent at United Utilities, said: “The moorland environment poses unique challenges for fire-fighting. It is often far from water sources, main roads and the delicate peaty soils do not support heavy machinery.

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"In 2018, during the Winter Hill fire, we first used a number of 2,500 gallon slurry tankers behind tractors and 1,000 litre containers. But the tankers are heavy and can easily damage access tracks and jetted the water out uncontrolled, while the containers only had a limited capacity and need taking up and down the hill constantly to be re-filled from a standpipe.

The new tanker is being trialled in Hoddlesdon, near DarwenThe new tanker is being trialled in Hoddlesdon, near Darwen
The new tanker is being trialled in Hoddlesdon, near Darwen

“I thought we needed something nimble, small but able to carry more water than before.”

The machine has been put through its paces at a farm near Hoddlesden and will be available for use by either United Utilities or the fire services whenever it’s needed.

Rob Harvey, Station manager, NFCC Wildfire Tactical Advisor and Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service Wildfire Lead trainer, said the new vehicle was “invaluable” in maintaining water supplies to Hagglunds and Polaris vehicles that would not have to return from the upland areas to replenish their water tanks.