- More than 50 households evacuated
- Blaze declared a ‘major incident’ at 10pm on Tuesday
- Government has situation ‘under constant review’
- 6km of area affected by fires
- Blaze being fought from six locations and that a wind change could provide more fuel
- Council leader pleads for ‘a really, really good downpour’
- Are you affected? Message HuffPost UK on WhatsApp +44 78968 04043
Soldiers have started arriving in Greater Manchester to help tackle the huge fire on Saddleworth Moor that could take “weeks” to extinguish.
About 100 troops from the 4th Battalion, Royal Regiment of Scotland, were sent from their barracks in Catterick, North Yorkshire, overnight after the measure was announced on Wednesday afternoon.
“We can see this being prolonged for days if not weeks, particularly with the fact that the wind has drawn the fires towards the residential but actually away from the centre of the moor,” Tony Hunter, of Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service, told reporters of the fire which has spread across seven square miles, in six different areas.
“We only need a change in wind direction to then see that fire increasing into where the greater fuel source is, so we could see a dramatic change.”
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Manchester Fire Assistant Chief Fire Officer Tony Hunter said the blaze is being fought from six locations and that a wind change could provide more fuel for the fire.
He added: “Our main action is to protect to the left-hand side to stop it spreading towards the residents, and to the right-hand side to make sure it doesn’t go – if there is a wind change over the next couple of hours – into that unburnt material.”
The Ministry of Defence also sent an RAF Chinook helicopter to the scene and it is believed military assistance will also include more four-wheel drive vehicles.
Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said: “I pay tribute to our armed forces’ professionalism, dedication and sense of duty.
“They are proving once again that Britain can always depend on our troops to protect us no matter the time, no matter the place, and no matter the problem.”
Dozens of homes were evacuated on Tuesday after the blaze spread dangerously close to residential areas in Carrbrook, Stalybridge.
Keelan, who is director of emergency response at the scene, said fire crews needed help accessing hard to reach areas on the moors that are still alight.
“The request is to assist us to move some high volume pumps by air to locations that we couldn’t get them to with vehicles, and also the ability to transport personnel to those more remote areas so we can get there quicker with more people with the water supplies we hope to put in place to try and resolve the incident in a quicker nature,” he said.
“We are still in detailed discussions with the military over the logistical element of it. They will obviously move as quick as they can to get resources here.”
Hunter said the military will provide “effective support and additional resources” and an RAF helicopter is also available.
“The moorland is very difficult to access, our 4x4s can do a role but getting heavier equipment is essential for the helicopter,” he told reporters.
He added: “It’s extremely deceiving at the moment, it looks like it’s smouldering away, which it is doing, but with a pick up of the wind we could see pockets being established – we need to keep on top of it.
“We have got square miles of unburnt fuel up there and if there’s a change in wind direction or an increase in temperature we could see that go up.”
Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham said he expected the resources would be available by Thursday morning.
About 35 homes had been abandoned by about 11.30pm and the electricity supply in Calico Crescent - one of the worst affected areas - was cut off. By Wednesday that number had reached 50, though many were allowed back to their homes by lunchtime.
High temperatures and strong winds are believed to have exacerbated the situation, which was declared a major incident by 999 crews at about 10pm.
Leon Parkes, assistant chief fire officer with Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service, said: “We’ve got over 6km of affected area - there is a fire occurring in pockets around the outskirts.
Brenda Warrington, leader of Tameside Borough Council, said: “One of the things we need, and I don’t usually ask for this in this kind of weather, is a really, really good downpour, sustained for quite some time. That is really the only thing that will deal with this fire.
“The fire and rescue lads are doing everything they can to contain it and protect us but we do need Mother Nature to help us, quite frankly.”
Prime Minister Theresa May told MPs that the Government is keeping the situation in Saddleworth “under constant review”.
Speaking at Prime Minister’s Questions, May paid tribute to emergency service personnel and offered her sympathy to all those affected by the blaze.
She said: “The Home Office is monitoring the situation closely with the National Resilience Assurance team.
“So far no request for Government support has been made from Manchester Fire and Rescue but we are keeping this under constant review and operational policy arrangements are in place to provide support if required.”
Roads and schools were closed and people not in the immediate vicinity were ordered to stay indoors and keep their doors and windows shut as firefighters battled to contain the blaze, reportedly “the biggest in living memory”.
According to the Manchester Evening News, “the sun turned red and ash rained from the sky as the fire raged above Oldham and Tameside for the third night running”.
Church halls were opened to offer refuge to those forced to flee their homes and police advised those with nowhere to go to contact Tameside Council.
The council said in a statement: “Residents in areas affected by smoke should stay indoors, keep their doors and windows closed, and tune in to the local radio station for advice and information.
“Motorists who have to travel through the smoke should keep windows closed, turn off air conditioning and keep their air vents closed. If people need to be outdoors, they are advised to avoid areas affected by any smoke or ash, or to limit the time that they spend in them.
“Smoke can irritate air passages, the skin and the eyes leading to coughing and wheezing, breathlessness and chest pain.
“It can also worsen existing problems such as asthma and people with asthma should carry their inhaler with them at all times.”
Public health officials and emergency crews said people with breathing problems were particularly at risk and should contact the NHS non-emergency line if they needed advice.
Meanwhile fire chiefs said crews had been battling around the clock to bring the blaze under control “in extremely difficult circumstances” and thanked members of the public for their support.
Service group manager for Tameside, Phil Nelson, said: “Crews are still tackling this difficult fire and are working hard to contain the blaze and prevent further fire spread.
“Firefighters are faced with very difficult circumstances, intense heat and are working on challenging terrain.
“Our main considerations are for crew welfare. It is physically draining working at this incident and it is vital that our firefighters have regular breaks and that relief crews are available to take over.
“I would like to thank the Salvation Army for keeping our crews fed and watered during this incident.
“We are co-ordinating our efforts with our partners at the Peak District, United Utilities and Ranger Services and will continue to into the evening.”
The initial inferno, on land near Buckton Vale, broke out just before 8.20pm on Sunday, but was brought under control within in a couple of hours.
But widespread heatwave conditions caused the fire to reignite on Monday morning, with about two square kilometres ablaze between Stalybridge and Dove Stone at its height.
Carrbrook resident Dee Blanchard, 28, told local media on Tuesday evening: “It’s getting a bit frightening.
“We’ve got double glazing but we’ve had to put damp towels around their windows and doors.
“You can’t go outside, you can barely see.
“The firefighters are trying to connect hoses to hoses because there’s no access point near them.
“There’s a fireman in a white hat who I think is in charge and he said we might have to evacuate.”
It has not been established what might have caused the fire.