‘Praying for rain’ but fire crews winning battle with moorland fires

FIRE chief Phil Nelson says “massive progress” has been made bringing huge areas of blazing moorland under control.

Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service’s Group Manager also confirmed only the efforts of GMFRS crew prevented the huge fire above Uppermill on Easter Monday evening spreading to local properties.

Speaking to the media at Castleshaw top reservoir on Tuesday, April 23, Mr Nelson told reporters attempts were being made to introduce anti-social behaviour orders for people taking barbecues and naked flames onto bone dry hill sites and beauty spots.

Fire teams maintained a visible presence in Uppermill and around the Delph, Diggle and Denshaw areas while helicopters dropped water over still smouldering ground on Marsden Moor.

It is likely a barbecue started the blaze at Eastergate near Marsden on Easter Sunday which destroyed an estimated area of 15 square kilometres.

The fires then spread west towards Castleshaw and on Monday night jumped across the A640 towards Readycon Dean Reservoir.

A separate fire erupted between Den Lane and Ladcastle Road in Uppermill around 90 minutes after GMFRS answered calls to attend at Cote Lane, Delph.

“Last night (Monday),” said Mr Nelson, “We were very close to the fire impinging onto the local community in Uppermill.

“But officers worked tirelessly through the night due to the impact on property and the people who live in houses to stop fires spreading into those areas. The crews did a fantastic job.

“Heavy rain is forecast for later in the week,” he added. “One thing we don’t normally do is pray for rain.

“But we are praying for rain to help suppress some of these hot spots we have got in difficult location across the moors.

“The moors are very dry on the top and there is a lot of unburnt vegetation. Conditions have been very warm and very dry which is why fires taken hold

“We have had anecdotal evidence from the local community to identify possible motorbikes and people going out on the moors causing anti-social behaviour.

“If you see any activity please ring Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.

“Please enjoy the moors but be careful. Be vigil and when you are out and about.

“We have had reports of fires being started because of people taking barbecues onto the moor. Any naked flames cigarettes or lighters be careful with them. Be responsible when you are out.

“But we are working with our partners at Tameside Council and other partners to bring anti-social behaviour orders out.

“Hopefully, we can get those in place to stop people bringing barbecues and naked flames onto the moors to stop fires like this happening and the impact it causes.

“The heat and weather conditions have impacted on crews on the moors.

“It is very testing for our crews who are working hard to extinguish these fires and supporting our partners and communities to make sure they are safe at all times.

“But compared to yesterday we have made massive progress.”

The National Trust released a statement concerning the Marsden Moor inferno.

A spokesperson said: “The rain forecast tomorrow should help the fire crews’ efforts and bring much needed moisture to the moorland after a prolonged dry spell.

“Marsden Moor is a special place for upland birds, including merlin, which nest on the ground.

“It’s likely that the biggest loss of wildlife will be nesting birds such as curlew, and mountain hares that inhabit this area of the moorland.

“A significant fire on February 27 damaged 121 hectares with four separate smaller fires reported and extinguished since.

“We’re devastated to see the destruction caused. Please help us protect the moors and wildlife by calling the fire brigade immediately if you spot any signs of fire.”

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