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27th Jun 2018

Saddleworth Moor fire declared major incident, smoke plume visible from space

30 homes have been evacuated and the army may be called in to help today

Oli Dugmore

30 homes have been evacuated and the army may be called in to help today

Extraordinary images released by NASA show the smoke plume from the Saddleworth Moor fire, near Manchester, which has now been declared a major incident.

More than 30 homes are being evacuated and at least two schools have also been closed.

Police have said that the army has been put on stand by and is ready to step in and assist with the blaze.

No injuries have been reported as a result of the fire.

Thousands of people were being warned to keep their windows and doors shut as huge plumes of smoke billowed into the area on the outskirts of the city.

Firefighters have been battling the fire for three days and evacuations have taken place in some areas.

The fire service have recommended that people in the area close their windows and doors and that the smoke should not affect medication. They described the smoke as at “safe levels.”

It’s estimated that the fire covers an area larger than 6km.

Leon Parkes, assistant chief fire officer with Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service, said: “Fire crews have been working in tremendously difficult conditions in the heat, smoke, working with our partner agencies.

“A number of actions were put in place including the evacuation of nearby houses because of the spread of the fire.

“We are doing an assessment on the scene this morning. We have 10 fire engines with 50 fire fighters.

“Some earth sampling was undertaken last night and the readings that have come back are showing safe levels.

“The evacuation was just over 30 homes last night, there were a number of other homes at threat of fire, however we put additional services in that area so I hope we’ve quelled that risk.

“Clearly the challenges are enormous. We have fire fighters working in really, really hot conditions. They’re doing everything they can to control that fire.

“As you can appreciate, firefighters will have fire kit on which is heavy, thick, warm – the ground is really hot, the smoke coming off the fire is thick.

“The scenes of fire are not where we can access, some of them are two miles away (from where we can park).

“We’ve got over 6km of affected area – there is fire occurring in pockets around the outskirts. The plan today is to try and really really put some resource on the scene, and put a heavy attack on this fire – if that needs military assistance, that’s what we’ll consider.

“This fire is particularly large. We’ve got lots of experience with dealing with moor fires.

“But this particular incident is vast – it’s presented some real challenges to the fire and rescue service in terms of access, the conditions for firefighters, and obviously the wind encourages the fire to spread.

“We’ve been dealing with an escalating incident and we are trying to get on top of it now.”

Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham tweeted his thanks to fire crews: “Huge thanks to the GM firefighters working flat out to contain this worrying situation.”

A police helicopter has been deployed and will be in the air assessing the state of the fire today.