In celebration of Lancashire's volunteers helping to battle the moorland fire at Winter Hill
When fire broke out on Winter Hill almost two weeks ago, few would have imagined how serious the blaze would become.
Although the fire is now under control, it is still burning, and is unlikely to be extinguished soon.
Hundreds of firefighters from around the country have been called in to fight the fire – from Tyne and Wear to South Wales, London and Warwickshire.
They include the owners of an Italian restaurant, who have been helping exhausted firefighters tackling the Winter Hill fire by feeding them pizzas and pasta, it has been revealed.
The owners at the San Marino restaurant on Belmont Road offered to help out and provide a base for the fire service’s command unit after the devastating fire broke out last week.
The manager of the restaurant, which has been open in the area for over 10 years, said it was devastating to see the impact of the fire and to watch exhausted firefighters as they battled the blaze.
Enzo Giannone Manager at the San Marino restaurant said: “We are here at the heart of the community and we want to do our bit.
“We cannot help with extinguishing the fire, and this was our little contribution. It was the very least we could do.
“The firefighters have been working in terrible conditions. When the fire was at its worst a firefighter came in and he was all black and just exhausted.
“It was just right to give something back to help in a small way.
“The fire has obviously affected our business, and what we would say is that we are definitely still open and accessible, so please visit us if you can.”
Volunteers at Mountain Rescue Teams across the North West have also leant their expertise to firefighters battling the fire which affected an 8sq km of moorland near Chorley.
Volunteers from Bowland, Rossendale and Bolton, who were responsible for coordinating the effort, took time off from their day jobs to help with the firefighting efforts.
Speaking on behalf of Bolton Mountain Rescue Team, Diane Blakeley said: “The amount of time we have spent attending this incident is unprecedented.
“I know that our leadership are very proud of the way our members have given their time so willingly.
“They have worked tremendously hard alongside all the other agencies involved.
“Everyone has worked together with one aim in mind - to put the fire out without the loss of life or property.”
The Mountain Rescue team at Bowland has been helping to ferry supplies to crews and spot fires.
Team Leader for Bowland, Kevin Camplin said: “Our volunteers have done an amazing job helping out at the Winter Hill fire and we are grateful for their support.
“We have been helping to keep the firefighters fed and nourished by ferrying supplies to the crews.
“We have also been out looking for hot spots on the moors and telling the fire services when we find them.
“We are all volunteers and we like to help the community where we can.
“It’s nice to be able to do our bit.”
A large number of Coastguard volunteers also gave up their own time or took time off work to help the firefighting effort.
At one point Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service made a plea for all-terrain vehicles to reach difficult areas.
So HM Coastguard staff decided to send their specialist vehicles – and their officers – to the site every day for more than a week.
It meant that water could be deployed in areas that otherwise might be impossible.
Around five volunteers per day from across the North West went to Winter Hill to do whatever they can to help.
Adam Bradbury, senior Coastguard operations officer for Morecambe Bay, said: “Emergency services work closely with each other and when it comes down to it we will do whatever we can to support each other.
“We had a variety of Coastguard volunteer officers from Lancashire, Cumbria and Mersyside there.
“Using our vehicles our officers were able to put the water exactly where the fire service wanted them to.”
Mountain Rescue bosses estimate that volunteers have dedicated around 2,100 hours of their own time to help support firefighters since the incident began.
Chris Kenny, Chief Fire Officer at Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service, said: “We’ve made excellent progress in reducing the Winter Hill wildfire and the vital infrastructure and properties in the area have been successfully protected.
“Although the fire is currently under control, the incident remains protracted and demanding, and we expect to be present for several days yet.
“Working closely with our partners and voluntary agencies, the fire has been brought under control despite very challenging conditions.”
He added: “The response by everyone involved has been tremendous, and we have been greatly supported by the local community.
“I’d particularly like to thank local businesses who have supported employees who also work for Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service as retained firefighters, in allowing them to provide a sustained response, and those near to the scene that are experiencing disruption.
“I’m grateful for their patience and co-operation.”
Members of the Lancaster Area Search and Rescue also helped support the effort at Winter Hill.
Ten volunteers dedicated around 420 man hours over six days as part of the operation.
Volunteers for the organisation, which was set up in the wake of flooding in Lancaster last year, helped to drive soft track vehicles across the difficult terrain.
Operations Manager Paul Calland said: “Our unit was primarily set up after the floods last year- we were set up to be a rescue unit equipped with boats.
“This means we get called to missing persons searches and flooding as well as other incidents.
“We also have a great deal of expertise driving soft track machines which is how we were deployed at the Winter Hill incident.
“Our volunteers showed a great deal of dedication, some of them coming straight from work to help.
“We had feedback from the fire service saying they could not have done it without teams like ours.”
Bowland Mountain Rescue Team are currently recruiting for volunteers - for more information please email [email protected]