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Man arrested in arson probe over moorland blaze

The 20-year-old is being questioned by Lancashire Police investigating the fire on Winter Hill, near Bolton.

A 20-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of arson with intent to endanger life in relation to a moorland blaze.

Lancashire Police said the man, from Wigan, was arrested on Friday morning by police investigating the fire on Winter Hill, near Bolton.

A force spokesman said the investigation is continuing.

The arrest comes as fire crews from Greater Manchester were released from tackling the blaze at good progress was made.

Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham, who visited crews on the scene on Friday morning, said: “I wanted to come here again today to say a huge thank you to all the crews fighting this fire, including crews from Greater Manchester, Lancashire and many other fire and rescue services.

“They are working incredibly hard and the public are so grateful for their efforts.

“Following assessments of the incident ground on the Greater Manchester side of the hill yesterday, and in consultation with LFRS, today we are able to scale back some of GMFRS’s resources from that area.

“Good progress is being made and over the weekend there will be five GMFRS appliances supporting Lancashire.”

Fire chiefs declared a major incident last Saturday after two large-scale blazes either side of Winter Hill merged because of increased wind speed.

A 22-year-old man was arrested last week on suspicion of starting one of the fires and later released under investigation.

Army troops assisting firefighters tackling a blaze on Saddleworth Moor, about 30 miles from Winter Hill, were stood down on Friday after nine days of carrying out work including digging trenches in an effort to stop the fires spreading.

Around 100 troops from the Royal Regiment of Scotland have been involved in the operation but the order for military support will not be extended into the weekend.

Deputy mayor of Greater Manchester Beverley Hughes said: “We are extremely grateful to the Royal Regiment of Scotland troops for their support during this very challenging time and I want to thank them on behalf of the fire service and also the public of Greater Manchester.

“Today there are 11 GMFRS fire crews at the Tameside incident and good progress is being made – so much so that officers hope to be able to release crews from most of the other services by the weekend, with just a small number of special appliances and fire engines from Cheshire remaining for support.”

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Members of A Company Guns Platoon continue to support Great Manchester Fire and Rescue Service (Sgt Donald Todd/PA)

Major Phil Morgan, Officer Commanding Alpha Company 4 SCOTS, said: “It’s been a real privilege to be involved in this firefighting effort. Not only has the task been completed but we have strengthened the bonds that already exist between the Army and our civilian partners.

“It has been a demanding but truly worthwhile task and my soldiers have met the challenge with absolute commitment and pride in their role, showing they are always ready to serve. We’d like to thank all of the agencies who have made our job easier, in particular GMFRS for its leadership and the wider community for making us feel so welcome.”

Earlier this week, police said the fire, which started on Sunday June 24, was being treated as arson.

Witnesses reported people lighting a bonfire on the moorland above Stalybridge, Greater Manchester, about 50 minutes before the first emergency call to raise the alarm.

The public was urged to stay away from the Winter Hill area over the weekend as firefighters continued efforts to extinguish the blaze.

In a video message shared by the fire service, area manager Steve Morgan said: “We’d ask, please, that you allow us to continue to deal with this incident.

“We have got some momentum behind the tactical plan and what we are looking to do is to return the moorland to the local community as soon as we are able, but in assisting us to do that, please, for this weekend, please stay off the moorland and allow us to go about our work.”

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