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01st Jul 2018

Major incident declared as two Bolton wildfires merge

Firefighters have returned to the moors this morning to battle the blaze

Oli Dugmore

Firefighters have returned to Winter Hill this morning to battle the blaze

More than 100 firefighters from fire services across the country have been battling a wildfire on Winter Hill outside Bolton which has now been declared a major incident.

As a brutal heatwave covers the country in temperatures that have reached 33C it’s the second major incident to be declared this week, following the Saddleworth Moor fire which was visible from space.

There are now 22 fire engines on the scene after 10 crews stayed on the hill overnight. Firefighters from Manchester, Warwickshire, Humberside, Nottinghamshire, Cumbria, South Wales and Tyne and Wear are all in attendance.

Personnel from Manchester Fire Service are still combatting the blaze on Saddleworth Moor too.

Discussions are taking place about whether to call in the army to assist operations.

Firefighters were ordered to evacuate when two wildfires on Winter Hill merged at midday on Saturday June 30 due to increasing wind speeds, forming a single fire covering 8 square kilometres.

Lancashire Fire and Rescue service declared a major incident and described the fire as “rapidly developing and aggressive.”

There are now 30 pumps from Lancashire and Manchester at the incident along with specialist wildfire fighting teams, a drone and mountain rescue units. A United Utilities helicopter is also in operation.

Members of the public are advised to stay away from the area affected. Residents in areas affected by smoke should stay indoors, keep doors and windows closed and tune in to the local radio station and social media for advice and information.

Motorists who have to travel through the smoke should keep windows closed and switch air conditioning systems to recycle or recirculate to prevent drawing in outside air.

Firefighters have used hoses, beaters and garden leaf blowers, which cool down the air around the flames, to reduce the fire.

Ben Levy, Manchester Fire area manager said: “It’s been a long and demanding day with challenging moorland fires plus other incidents facing the Fire Service. I am so proud of our hardworking firefighters and control staff.

“We have made good progress and will be back out on the moors at daybreak.”

Lancashire Fire tweeted: “We’re really concerned that members of the public are heading up on to the moors.

“We really appreciate your offer to help but public safety is a priority and we ask people to stay away. Keeping windows and doors closed due to the smoke is also advised. Thank you.”

A Greater Manchester Police spokesperson said: “We strongly urge motorists and pedestrians to adhere to all road closure signs as they are there for your safety.

“They are also in place to ensure that emergency services have clear access to continue tackling the fire.”

Earlier in the week police arrested a 22-year-old man from Bolton on suspicion of arson with intent to endanger life, in connection with the blaze.

Members of the public wishing to donate supplies to firefighters can do so at Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service Training Centre, West Way, Euxton, Chorley, PR7 6DH, which is open 8am – 4pm today