Fire crews from around UK called in to battle massive moorland blaze

Hundreds of firefighters from eight different forces were today launching a 'large scale attack' on the Winter Hill blaze, which now covers an area of five square miles.

Saturday, 30th June 2018, 9:44 am
Updated Wednesday, 4th July 2018, 6:06 pm
Winter Hill and Rivington Pike almost obscured by smoke late Saturday afternoon
Winter Hill and Rivington Pike almost obscured by smoke late Saturday afternoon

Yesterday roads were closed and a major incident declared as two moorland fires in Lancashire spread and met, with flames so fierce that firefighters were forced to temporarily withdraw from the area.

Today major efforts were being made to stop the blaze from spreading to nearby woodland.

Fire crews from Tyne and Wear, South Wales, Nottinghamshire, Humberside, Warwickshire and Cumbria have joined the Lancashire and Greater Manchester crews battling the blaze.

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Winter Hill and Rivington Pike almost obscured by smoke late Saturday afternoon

At least one family was reported to have been evacuated with firefighters keeping a close watch on other outlying properties and considering more evacuations if the fire spreads further.

In the early hours of this morning the number of crews at the site was increased and there are now 25 fire engines in attendance and around 150 firefighters.

A Lancashire Fire and Rescue spokesman said today: "We are continuing to tackle fires across various locations at the Winter Hill side and Scout Road side of the incident. We increased firefighting efforts at 04:30hrs this morning in order to mount a large scale attack on the fire fronts.

"Currently there are 25 fire appliances deployed across the incident ground. Firefighting activity on the Winter Hill side is now focusing on getting water onto smouldering, hot spot area. Offensive firefighting is focusing on getting water onto nearby woodland to ensure any flame flare ups don’t spread to that area and we have been working with partners to secure the road and infrastructure up on the top of the hill at the mast sites.

A firefighter on the moors

"Significant firefighting activity is predominently focused on the Scout Road side of the incident ground. We are looking into getting helicopter support later in the day to assist with getting water onto the incident ground in this area.

"We are experiencing another very hot and dry day and so we would like to take this opportunity to remind people of the need to stay clear of the fire ground so that fire operations can continue unimpeded. Also, if you are spending time out in our countryside today please take care to be fire safety aware."

Assistant Chief Fire Officer Dave Russell told media: "We have been plotting the area and looking to predict fire spread so we can make some early decisions around protecting any domestic properties, which could involve digging a trench around a property to act as a fire break. But we’re also considering evacuation.”

Meanwhile Chorley police have warned of road closures and footpath closures in the area, to assist the firefighting efforts.

An aerial view of the Winter Hill blaze

A police spokesman said: "Today we will be closing off roads and public footpaths with scene tape for the safety of the public.

"Please DO NOT pass any areas that have been cordoned off or any roads that have been closed."

The roads closed are; Scout Road, Belmont Road, Smithills Dean Road, Longshore Ford Road, Walker Fold Road,George's Lane, Marklands Road, Old Rake at the junction with George's Lane and Belmont Road at the entrance to Rivington Terraced Gardens. The terraced gardens have closed to the public for safety reasons.

The United Utilities helicopter will also be joining the firefighting effort with water drops on the blaze.

Amazingly, these people thought it was okay to light a camp fire in Rivington

After the initial blaze on Thursday near the TV mast, fire crews were stretched even further yesterday when a large fire broke out on neighbouring moorland at Scout Road, Bolton.

Officers are also still dealing with the massive Saddleworth Moor blaze.

Lancashire has today deployed around 50 officers to the Winter Hill area.

Greater Manchester Fire tweeted today: "At first light this morning crews went back onto the moors around Tameside and Scout Road, Bolton to assess progress overnight and the current situation on the ground.

"Incident commanders are preparing a strategy for a further challenging day of firefighting."

Paul Duggan, Group Commander at GMFRS, said: "We experienced a steady night and have no reports of any serious flare-ups. We have now returned to firefighting at both locations. "Both situations are ongoing this morning and we thank the public for their support and cooperation."

Meanwhile, the regional police helicopter was scrambled at 2am after reports of a camp fire in Rivington.

Astonishingly, a group of people had lit a fire while apparently camping out in an area devastated by burning moorland.

The NPAS tweeted: "02:00 Respond to sus activity Rivington.

"Locate a group around a camp fire. @LancsPolice en route to offer words of advice.

"Please act responsibly, @LancashireFRS don't have an endless supply of firefighters to extinguish the wild fires!"

Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service has once again thanked the public and businesses for their support.

Officers from all over Lancashire have been drafted in to tackle the Rivington blaze. Crews from Cumbria have been covering some stations, including Preston,

Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service said it had been "overwhelmed by the offers of support over the last few days."

It tweeted: "Thank you to Tesco stores in and around the Adlington area, Marks and Spencer Horwich, Greenhalgh Craft Bakers, Winter Hey Lane Taxis and Home Bakery to name a few who have sent donations over.

"Apologies to all the people and companies we haven’t mentioned."

Firefighters are also appealing for help from the public who can loan vehicles. Lancashire Fire and Rescue tweeted: "If anyone has a soft track vehicle that can travel on sensitive ground and carry a 1 cubic metre container, please message us."