AFTER three weeks of firefighting on moorlands across Greater Manchester, the hard work of fire crews, the military, mountain rescue and many other partners, along with a much-needed spell of rain, means that Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service (GMFRS) is now scaling back its resources at incidents in Tameside, Bolton and Denshaw. 

The last three weeks has been one of the busiest periods that GMFRS has ever experienced with hundreds of its firefighters and officers responding to multiple wildfires and working day and night to bring them under control in extremely challenging circumstances.

GMFRS’ Interim Chief Fire Officer, Dawn Docx, said: “Crews have done a fantastic job over the last few weeks and thanks to their efforts and the support of other agencies, fire and rescue services and the military, we were able to make a significant impact in putting the fires out over the past week. But the arrival of rain has been warmly welcomed and has certainly helped to speed up the process of extinguishing the last pockets of flames.

“There is still a significant amount of work to be done at three ongoing moorland incidents as we continue to dampen down and then pack away miles of hose reels, so crews will remain at the incidents for another week or so and therefore we would ask the public to continue to avoid the area while we finish our work.

“Until firefighters are confident that there is no chance the fires can reignite, they will remain at each scene, continuing to dampen down. But we are now able to scale back our resources at the incidents and slowly return to business as usual.”

The first incident began on the evening of June 24 when crews tackled a fire on the moors in Tameside. The fire reignited the next day and rapidly escalated, with Greater Manchester Police declaring it a major incident on the evening of Tuesday, June 25 and evacuating a number of residents from their homes in Calico Crescent.

The fire continued to spread across the dry ground as firefighters battled to contain the flames. Support was drafted in from fire and rescue services across the UK, helicopters were deployed and soldiers from the Royal Regiment of Scotland (4 SCOTS) arrived on Thursday, June 28 to provide support.

That same day, a fire broke out on Winter Hill and crews from GMFRS joined Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service to fight the fire. The incident escalated and was declared a major incident by police on Saturday, June 30.

On Saturday, July 7 GMFRS were called to tackle a further moorland fire in Denshaw and at its height, 20 firefighters from GMFRS, supported by crews from neighbouring fire and rescue services, worked to contain the fire.

As of Friday, July 13, GMFRS had four fire engines by day and three by night at the Tameside incident, with three by day and one by night at the Denshaw fire. GMFRS currently has three appliances by day and three by night at Winter Hill along with additional appliances from Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service.

CFO Docx added: “Once again, we would like to thank all our partner agencies, volunteer organisations, other fire and rescue services, the military and members of the public, for their work, dedication and support during this incredibly busy time.”

Air quality in the areas affected, have greatly improved and pollution levels are low. A spokesperson for Public Health England said: “People should now be able to enjoy usual outdoor activities in areas where there is no visible smoke, but whilst fire-fighting continues and weather conditions vary there may still be spikes of poor air quality.

“Exposure to any smoke should be minimised, and when spikes occur in the affected areas people are advised to remain indoors and keep windows and doors closed and keep medication with you.”