Moon 'turns blood red' as firefighters battle raging moorland fires
The moon turned blood red last night as moorland fires raged across the North West of England.
Firefighters from Lancashire turned out to the blaze on Saddleworth Moor which has now been declared a major incident.
Crews from Bamber Bridge, Clitheroe and Lytham assisted teams from Greater Manchester Fire Service in their battle to bring the fire, which covered a six kilometre area, under control.
Today fire crews, including firefighters from Preston, Longridge and Fleetwood, are poised 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.
Among the affected areas is the village of Carrbrook, in Stalybridge, Greater Manchester, where 34 households in the Calico Crescent area were evacuated on Tuesday night as a precaution when strong winds pushed flames near their properties.
A major incident was declared and the Army remains on standby as Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service (GMFRS) put in a plan of action to douse the fire which initially broke out on Sunday afternoon before it reignited the following day and has since worsened.
The news comes as the ongoing heatwave caused grass to become tinder dry leaving the county's firefighters battling four grass fires in the space of a week across Lancashire.
In Rivington, firefighters continued to watch over the site of a large grass fire near to Sheep House Lane.
Around 20 acres of moorland, including a new tree plantation, were devastated by the fire which started on Monday evening.
Roads were closed as crews tried to beat out the flames and used misting equipment to damp down the fire.
The fire was largely brought under control by Monday evening say firefighters, although pockets reignited early on Tuesday leading to more firefighters being sent to the area.
A spokesman for Lancashire Fire and Rescue said: "We'll be keeping a presence up on Rivington Pike throughout the day to continue monitoring the fire ground.
"There's currently no flame front however there are still small pockets smoking here and there which we're keeping an eye on so as to prevent re-ignition."
One crew remains at the scene on Wednesday to maintain a watching brief.
Residents across Chorley and Leyland reported a strong smell of smoke and a haze today and the moon over the county turned a deep blood red.
Experts say that the effect was caused by smoke and ash lingering in the air which led to a phenomenon known as "Rayleigh scattering"
Dr Nathan Case, a Senior Research Associate in the Department of Physics at Lancaster University says that the effect is often seen during large grass fires.
He explained: "The fire on Saddleworth Moor caused the moon to appear red from across much of the North West.
"The moon reflects light from the Sun. This reflected light is made up of a spectrum of colours which, when combined, normally makes the Moon appear white.
"Last night, however, smoke from the fire filtered out all but red light, through a process known as Rayleigh scattering.
"This scattering is what gives us red sunsets. When the Sun is low on the horizon, the light travels through more of the Earth’s atmosphere and only the red light, with its longer wavelength, makes it through. The smoke from the fire acted in the same way.
"If the fire continues burning, and the winds don’t blow the smoke away, we may see the red moon again from the North West in the coming nights.
"We are expecting to see a red “blood moon” in a month’s time July, 27. Again, this will be the result of Rayleigh scattering but the cause will be a lunar eclipse."
Megan Argo Astronomy Lecturer at UCLan said: "The red tinge to the moon last night was due to the layer of dust and ash that was thrown into the atmosphere by the moor fires.
"This is commonly seen in Australia after large bush fires and was seen in the UK after Hurricane Ophelia blew ash and dust from Iberian bush fires that were burning at the time.
"The red moon will probably be visible for a few days and there will also be some pretty dramatic sunsets in the area.
"The blood moon which is due at the end of July is a separate phenomena and will last for a matter of hours."
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.