Calls for more fire service support as moorland fires rage

A haze descended over the area at Winter Hill
A haze descended over the area at Winter Hill

The firefighters' union is calling for more support for Lancashire's firefighters, who have been battling an aggressive moorland fire on Winter Hill.

The Fire Brigades Union claims that firefighters have been working 17-hour shifts in difficult and demanding conditions to tackle the major incident which started near Chorley last Thursday.

Firefighters have been praised for their 'heroic' efforts at Winter Hill

Firefighters have been praised for their 'heroic' efforts at Winter Hill

Read more: WINTER HILL FIRE: 'We don't need fire tourists', warns Chorley MP Sir Lindsay Hoyle

And while the union accepts that the fire is an "extreme incident", it says that it is concerned about the lack of available crews to relieve firefighters.

It also says that fears have been raised over fire services having to rely upon donations for basic supplies.

Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue has requested donations of sun cream, insect repellent, caps and socks while Lancashire Fire and Rescue asked for soft track vehicles to deliver supplies to firefighters.

Gary Keary, chair of the FBU in the North West, said: “This is an extreme incident and it is pushing everyone to their limits. It shows the dedication of our firefighters; they want to get this job done as quickly as possible but there are simply not enough firefighters available.

“A moorland fire on this scale is fortunately rare but the effects of climate change could make similar large scale incidents much more frequent.

"It is deeply saddening that we have had to reach for the begging bowl. Our firefighters have been working in difficult conditions to keep the fire from spreading and have done an amazing job.”

Lancashire Fire and Rescue said today that the union had not contacted them to raise their concerns.

A Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service spokesman said: “We are surprised to see this response from the FBU as they have not raised their concerns with us directly.”

“Our firefighters have been working in difficult and tough conditions and we have staff working in our control and our headquarters who are organising relief crews, taking food and drink to the incident.

“We are working with fire and rescue services and charity organisations within the fire, and search and rescue sectors who are ensuring that we have the resources to deal with this fire and that we have fire cover for the rest of the county.

“We have been overwhelmed by the generosity of the public. Their response led us to open our Training Centre over the weekend but by Sunday night the room was full of drink and water and we have now had to stop accepting donations.”

The Mayor of Manchester, Andy Burnham said during a visit to Winter Hill yesterday that he would be asking the Home Secretary to “take a closer interest” in the fires.

He said: "The firefighters have been doing a magnificent job... but what I take away from being here is that they need more support, possibly air support.

"This remains a challenging situation and we need to ensure that all necessary resources are made available."

Firefighting at the site resumed this morning with 30 engines at the scene. These include firefighters from Manchester, Tyne and Wear, Shropshire and Nottinghamshire.

Since 2010, 700 firefighter posts have been cut in Greater Manchester and 314 posts have been axed in Lancashire.