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Firefighters mounting ‘large scale attack’ against moorland blazes

Helicopters are to being used to get water to smouldering hot spots.

Firefighters tackling a “rapidly developing, aggressive fire” which is ravaging moorland across Lancashire say they are launching a “large scale attack” against the blaze.

Crews are now battling a major incident which was declared on Saturday after two large-scale moorland fires merged due to increasing wind speed.

Greater Manchester Police said fires on Winter Hill and Scout Road near Bolton have merged, with pedestrians and motorists urged to stay away from the scene.

Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service, which has 25 appliances at Winter Hill, says that helicopters are being brought in to try and get water on to areas of smouldering hot spots.

It is part of firefighting efforts which have been bolstered since 4.30am “in order to mount a large scale attack on the fire fronts”, according to a spokesman.

He said: “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.

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(PA Graphics)

“Significant firefighting activity is predominantly 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.”

They have also warned people not to fly drones over Winter Hill as they are “putting firefighters and pilots’ lives at risk” particularly with helicopters in the skies.

Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service (GMFRS) said on Saturday it had 28 fire engines tackling the moorland fires. There were approximately 120 personnel on the moors, split between seven areas of wildfire in Tameside and Winter Hill, Bolton.

GMFRS is tackling the moorland fires in Tameside while colleagues face another tough day doing the same at Winter Hill.

The service tweeted: “The object of today is to continue to control and if possible reduce both incidents. Some people have reported smelling smoke or ash settling on their properties.”

The first moorland fire – on Saddleworth Moor – started last Sunday amid Britain’s heatwave and has devastated surrounding land around Carrbrook.

Assistant chief fire officer Dave Keelan said: “This is an exceptionally challenging time and I am proud of the hard work and brave commitment of our firefighters.”

With “a still significant smoke plume” striking the area downwind of the fire, Lancashire FRS was urging anyone affected to keep their windows and doors shut. A plea was also made for people to stay away from the scene.

Lancashire fire service area manager Tony Cook said “very intensive firefighting” is taking place on Winter Hill, including personnel doing shuttle runs in appliances to get water to the scene while others manually try to beat the fire out.

Fire break trenches are also being dug to try to protect local buildings.

Fire brigades from across the country – including from Tyne and Wear, the South West, Nottinghamshire, Humberside and Warwickshire – are on the scene to try and bring the situation under control but they are working in hot conditions with “no significant rain forecast this week”, according to Met Office forecaster Helen Roberts.

She said: “The trend is for dry and very warm weather, which is far from ideal. Thunderstorms in the South West are unlikely to reach that far north.

“On Wednesday, there is the potential for showers in that vicinity but it could be a one-off, isolated and unlikely to hit the area.

“Thursday is similar and any showers would be isolated and fleeting. There is no significant rain forecast this week.”

Ms Roberts added that “winds are likely to pick up overnight, but unfortunately not enough of a breeze to fan things.”

Lancashire Police said it has had to deal with “reckless and dangerous” behaviour by members of the public which is hampering emergency efforts.

Some people, determined to get shots of the fire on their mobile phones, have blocked access roads for emergency vehicles by driving to the scene, while others have been flying drones over the moorland.

Insp Marianne Lawson, condemned these public safety incidents, saying: “The actions of these individuals is reckless and dangerous. It hampers the emergency service response while the fire presents a clear risk to those choosing to travel to the area.

“This is a major incident and only trained specialists should be at the scene.”

In contrast, the emergency services have been overwhelmed with donations of water and food from wellwishers for the firefighters.

Drop off points, which are now closed, have been at fire stations away from the scene which is too dangerous for the public to be near.

Sun cream, insect repellent, baseball caps and pairs of socks have also been gratefully received.

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