'Don't put lives at risk' - Fire service's plea to stop moorland fires

Two years on from a large moorland fire on Saddleworth Moor, the fire service is reminding people to enjoy the warm weather safely to avoid a repeat of the devastating blaze in 2018 which crews spent weeks tackling.

On June 24, 2018, the fire broke out and at its peak covered 11 square kilometres. 

Two days later, another large moorland fire broke out on Winter Hill in Bolton.

The two fires required hundreds of firefighters from all over the country and support from the Army to extinguish them.

The fires raged for three weeks and firefighters were not able to start withdrawing until July 11, when heavy rainfall put an end to weeks of hot and dry weather.

Two years on, areas throughout the region have continued to be blighted by moorland and wild fires. 

Earlier this month, more than 50 firefighters and multiple other agencies were required to tackle a large moorland fire near Dove Stone Reservoir in Oldham. Greater Manchester Fire Service has said that 20 per cent of its firefighter resources were required to deal with the fire at its height. 

Meanwhile, one weekend at the end of May saw crews tackling incidents including moorland fires, a blaze involving 200 tonnes of paper and an incident where firefighters rescued two dogs, a canary, a hamster and a tortoise. 

Today (Wednesday) is set to be the hottest day of the year so far, with temperatures set to soar to around 30 degrees in some places. 

With that in mind, fire crews are once again urging people to make sure they enjoy it safely and think carefully about their actions to help stop the devastating events of 24 months ago from happening again.

Assistant Chief Fire Officer Leon Parkes said: "The memories of the fires two years ago and the destruction that was caused are still fresh in the mind of everyone involved. Whether that is the firefighters who worked incredibly hard in hot and difficult conditions to put the fires out, the residents who were forced out of their homes as the flames came rolling down the hillside or people across the world who saw the devastation on television.

“Two years on, we are still all too regularly dealing with fires on the moorland. These can be started a number of ways but we know all too often these are started deliberately or by people being careless with barbecues, campfires or even not disposing of cigarettes properly.

“Our message on this is simple: Never have a barbecue or campfire on the moors or start a fire deliberately. We know most people would never dream of doing either of these things but unfortunately, some people are continuing to do so and in doing so are putting lives at risk.

“People think it’s just the flame that sets the moorland on fire from a barbecue but it is also the heat from the disposable barbecue setting the peat and the dry moorland alight which is causing these large moorland fires. These types of fires can often develop underneath the ground and may not be initially visible. They can develop at an astonishing rate and cause immense damage over very large geographical areas.

“It is not just the great risk the fire itself poses but if a firefighter is on the moors dealing with an incident they can’t be dealing with other incidents, where lives may be at risk; it really is that simple.”

The fire service is asking people to follow this advice: 

  • Never take a barbecue on the moors or to the countryside
  • Always extinguish your cigarette and any other smoking materials properly.
  • Don't leave bottles or glass in woodlands.
  • Never start a fire of any kind
  • Keep children away from matches and cigarettes and open fires
  • If you see a fire in the countryside, report it immediately. Don't attempt to tackle fires that can't be put out with a bucket of water. Leave the area as soon as possible and dial 999
  • If you witness illegal activity report it to Crimestoppers 0800 555 111

People are also reminded that Public Spaces Protection Orders are in place in Oldham and Tameside, banning fires and barbecues on the land across Saddleworth, Crompton and Marsden moors.

Anyone found lighting a fire, barbecue, or other objects such as fireworks and sky lanterns, will be given a fixed penalty notice of £100, or face prosecution.

During one weekend in May, Oldham Council issued five fixed penalty notices to people for taking barbecues on the moors.

Image: Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service

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