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Army to remain on Saddleworth Moor during weekend as fire rages

The fires on the peat-embedded terrain and dry shrubland are contained but could take weeks to be fully extinguished, officials said.

The Army will stay on Saddleworth Moor throughout the weekend and into next week to help keep control of moorland blazes in the area.

Scottish soldiers from the 100-strong A Company of the 4th Battalion, Royal Regiment of Scotland, known as the Highlanders, joined forces on Thursday with about 160 firefighters when they were deployed to the scene in Greater Manchester for an initial 48-hour deployment.

Seven square miles of land between Tameside and Oldham had gone up in flames and blanketed the Greater Manchester region and beyond in smoke and ash.

A request for an extension of military personnel providing continued support over the weekend and into next week was granted on Friday afternoon, Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service (GMFRS) said.

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Firefighters tackle the wildfire on Saddleworth Moor (Danny Lawson/PA)

The Ministry of Defence also confirmed that the Army will continue to support GMFRS after receiving the request to stay on Saddleworth Moor following the initial 48-hour period of support.

There are still five separate incidents on the Tameside moors.

On Friday, the fires on the peat-embedded terrain and dry shrubland were contained but could take weeks to be fully extinguished with no prospect of rain in the next week.

With possible changes in wind conditions and stretched resources throughout the region in mind, Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester, urged an extension of the Army presence for another three days.

He said: “This has probably been the busiest week for Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service (GMFRS) in living memory.

“I don’t think anyone can remember a busier week but when called upon they have been there for us and we are incredibly grateful to them.

“As it is an ongoing situation and because there has been in some places a flaring-up today of the fire, we believe we continue to need large numbers of people out there providing support, so a request has gone in from Greater Manchester to the Government for the extension of the military support.”

GMFRS assistant chief fire officer Leon Parkes said: “We’re really grateful to members of the public, the local community and businesses who have been providing refreshments all week.

“We have been collecting these at Stalybridge community fire station, from where they’re being distributed to crews in various locations by our volunteers.

“Just a reminder that if you do wish to donate supplies, please don’t drive up to the incident as it causes access issues for our crews and we would really appreciate non-perishable foods such as re-hydration drinks, protein bars or gels.

“It continues to be an extremely challenging time for GMFRS and conditions for our crews up on the moors are very difficult – we are doing everything we can to put this fire out but we will be here for some time to come.”

Air quality in the affected areas continue to be monitored by Public Health England and Tameside Council, with people continuing to be urged to keep windows and doors shut.

GMFRS has also been dealing with a large wildfire on Scout Road in Bolton.

Crews were initially called to multiple fires on the hills near to Horrocks Moor Farm at 2am on Friday morning.

Six fire engines tackled the flames throughout the night and two crews remained on the scene dampening down hot spots.

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Soldiers from the Highlanders, 4th Battalion, Royal Regiment of Scotland, fight the fire on Saddleworth Moor (Sergeant Donald Todd (RLC)/Ministry of Defence/PA)

Due to the intense heat and dry weather, the fire flared up again early on Friday afternoon and currently measures approximately 2km in length.

Meanwhile, fire crews in neighbouring Lancashire were at the scene of a grass fire on moorland on Winter Hill near Rivington which broke out on Thursday afternoon.

A total of 80 firefighters, including crews from Greater Manchester and Cumbria, battled to contain the fire and ensure the flames did not spread to communications masts nearby.

Lancashire Police said later that a 22-year-old man from Bolton has been arrested on suspicion of arson with intent to endanger life.

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