Councillors pay tribute to work of Winter Hill firefighters

Firefighter battles the blaze at Winter Hill earlier this month.
Firefighter battles the blaze at Winter Hill earlier this month.
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Councillors from across the political divide have paid tribute to the work of firefighters tackling moorland blazes in Lancashire.

A fire broke out on Winter Hill, on the border between Chorley and Blackburn, on 28th June. It took almost three weeks for firefighters to bring it under control.

Chair of Lancashire Combined Fire Authority, Frank de Molfetta, tabled a motion at a meeting of Lancashire County Council, to express members’ gratitude for work done in “extreme weather and difficult conditions”.

“We are grateful to firefighters, support staff and volunteers for their efforts to contain the fire, thereby protecting the infrastructure at the top of the hill and [defending against] threats to life and property - while maintaining operational fire cover across Lancashire,” County Cllr De Molfetta said.

One member, who was amongst several to visit the scene at the height of the blaze, described being confronted by what looked like “a battlefield”. County Cllr David O’Toole told how he had witnessed a “spontaneous combustion” close to where he and other councillors were standing.

“Within a minute or two, the chap in command got on the phone and a helicopter arrived to put water [on the fire],” he said. “And then another one arrived - it was like a clockwork operation.

“I can’t state enough the dedication and hard work of our firefighters,” County Cllr O’Toole added.

Meanwhile, County Cllr Kim Snape, whose Chorley Rural East division was at the centre of the fire, said she wanted to express thanks on behalf of the residents in the area.

She also praised the organisations Rivington Heritage Trust and Groundwork. “There’s actually a £3.4m lottery bid in at the moment [and] there is a sterling amount of work going on to rejuvenate the terraced gardens at Rivington,” County Cllr Snape said.

“Thank God the terraced gardens were saved, otherwise it would have been an absolute catastrophe.”

Another member described how smoke drifted over the West Lancashire village where he lives, some 15 miles away from the scene of the fire. County Cllr Paul Greenhall also condemned the possibility that the blaze was started deliberately.

“It’s outrageous that we’ve got people up there risking their lives to save that beautiful area,” he said. “It beggars belief that people were going up there to set these fires on purpose.”