The government has been asked to extend the military deployment helping fight wildfires on Saddleworth moor for another three days, as fire chiefs record their busiest week in history.
Speaking at the scene on Friday, acting chief fire officer for Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue service (GMFRS), Dawn Docx, said the hot weather made it hard to establish how long emergency services will need to stay at the scene.
“Currently it is being contained, but we can’t say when it will be extinguished,” she said, of the fire that has raged since Sunday, engulfing some seven square miles.
“It could be days, it might even be weeks. This weather, obviously isn’t helping at all. What we need is a real downpour and that will do the trick.”
Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham said the fire, along with one at Winter Hill, near Rivington, Lancashire on Thursday; another in Rochdale and one in Manchester city centre had made this week “the busiest week in Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue’s recent history”.
“I don’t think anyone can remember a busier week,” he said, adding that because of flare-ups the GMFRS continue to require “large numbers of people providing support”.
Burnham said he had asked the Ministry of Defence to extend the deployment of a 100-strong group of soldiers from the 4th Battalion, Royal Regiment of Scotland, who joined the fight on Thursday, initially for 48 hours..
Meanwhile, residents living near Saddleworth Moor have reported health fears including bleeding noses, eye irritation and chest problems, a GP has said.
Dr Richard Bircher, of Lockside Medical Centre in Stalybridge, said about half of the emergency appointments booked on Thursday had been from patients reporting problems as a result of the smoke.
He said: “People are worried about it. They are minor symptoms but people are a bit scared.”
He added that the smoke was also exacerbating problems for people with asthma.
“If you’re really struggling, go and stay with relatives or friends somewhere else and if you have children who are suffering try and move them away from the smoke.
“There are elderly people who want to stay in their homes and we advise them to shut the windows.
“If people are feeling really bad they can take an antihistamine. We are also advising people to wash their hands and face to get rid of any dust and wear a facemask.”