Fire chiefs' warning over wildfires

Lancashire is braced for a long, hot summer as fire chiefs warned of the risk of more moorland fires to come.

By The Newsroom
Wednesday, 27th June 2018, 8:25 pm
Updated Wednesday, 27th June 2018, 9:33 pm
The wildfire on Saddleworth Moor
The wildfire on Saddleworth Moor

As major fires broke out on Saddleworth Moor and Rivington moorland within days of each other, dozens of fire crews have been battling the blaze.

Lancashire’s deputy fire chief Justin Johnson said: “We’ve been aware that this might occur given the long dry spell.

“Fortunately, crews are well trained and well equipped with special wildfire procedures.

“Like the floods in other seasons, this current period of sustained dry, warm weather is demonstrating the need to resource to risk and not just demand.”

Crews from Bamber Bridge, Clitheroe and Lytham assisted teams from Greater Manchester Fire Service in their battle to bring the Saddleworth Moor fire, which covered a six kilometre area, under control.

The fire was declared a major incident after people living nearby had to be evacuated from their home.

Fire crews, including firefighters from Preston, Longridge and Fleetwood, were poised yesterday to launch a “heavy attack” to combat the vast moorland blaze which led to the evacuation of a number of homes.

Pockets of fire continue to burn across Saddleworth Moor today as 50 firefighters continue work in “tremendously difficult conditions” to contain the situation amid the ongoing heatwave.

And the firefighting operation continues at Rivington, near Chorley, where a major moorland blaze broke out on Sunday night.

As previously reported in the Lancashire Post, fire experts had predicted a high number of wildfires across the North West this summer.

Experts warned that the cyclical nature of wildfires, coupled with the hot weather, meant Lancashire was ripe for another major incident.

Lancashire Fire and Rescue spokesman John Taylor said: “The fire at Rivington has actually been smouldering since Sunday.

“It damped down overnight, but as the hot weather returned during the day it began smouldering again, so we still have crews up there.

“The fire at Saddleworth Moor has shown what can happen with the combination of heat, prevailing winds and topography and that has covered a massive area.

“Lancashire crews are there providing assistance to our colleagues in Greater Manchester.

“Clearly the fire has taken hold there. Firefighters are working to ensure that it does not endanger life and as far as possible does not endanger property, but there is a lot of smoke and that has created issues.

“The recent heatwave means that the moorland is tinder dry and there is a risk of fire in those conditions.

“There was a moorland fire at Belmont, near Chorley, in 2011 and that lasted more than a week, so that gives an example of how long these things can last.

“The hot weather makes things very flammable, not just on the moors but in the city in parkland or green areas there is a lot of very dry grass. In a prolonged heatwave like this it really is an issue.”

The army was called in yesterday afternoon to help fight the fire on Saddleworth Moor, which saw 34 households in evacuated when strong winds pushed flames near their properties.

A major incident has been declared.

The exact causes of both the Rivington and Saddleworth fires have not been established, said the fire service.

Some 65,000 gallons of water had been dropped by helicopter onto the Saddleworth Moor fire by Tuesday afternoon to fight the fire which was said by firefighters to be unprecedented in recent times and has been devastating to the moorland and the wildlife that live there.