A moorland fire that has been raging for almost three weeks is now under full control, say firefighters.
The number of fire engines at the Winter Hill fire, which spans around 18 sq km of moorland, is currently six during peak hours: five from Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service and one from Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service.
Chris Kenny, Chief Fire Officer at Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service, said: “We’re in a strong position today in what’s been a very difficult and complex incident. Thanks to extremely hard work from our crews and partners, we have successfully protected the vital infrastructure and properties in the area. We’re now able to further reduce the amount of resources involved while still providing round-the-clock protection.
“However there is significant work ahead to bring the incident to an end. Our drone allows us to identify hot spots in the peat underground using thermal imaging and there are still areas burning beneath the surface.
“Although we’ve had some rain which helps to douse the land, firefighters will remain at the site until we can be more certain there is no further risk of fire. This involves monitoring the moorland for pockets of fire, damping hot areas down and maintaining control lines to prevent any fire from spreading.
“We ask the public to continue avoiding the moorland area so we can keep up the progress we’ve made. Road closures remain in place to allow us to operate vital equipment and keep emergency access points clear. I’d like to thank residents and businesses nearby for their cooperation and patience.”
Chief Fire Officer Kenny added: “Unfortunately we are also attending wildfires in other areas of the county. My plea to residents and visitors is to take real care and be extra vigilant when outdoors. Disposable BBQs, discarded cigarettes and even rubbish left on the ground can all start a fire.”
Air quality in the area is improving. A spokesperson for Public Health England said: “Now the smoke is reducing, we hope people can enjoy their usual outdoor activities in areas where there is no visible smoke. But whilst fire fighting continues and weather conditions vary there may still be times of poor air quality, so remember to continue to minimise your exposure to any smoke and keep your medication with you.”
The Winter Hill incident began on Thursday, June 28, as Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service and Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service fought two separate fires on either side of Winter Hill. On Saturday 30 June the fire on the Bolton side accelerated due to increased wind speed causing both fires to combine into one. A major incident was declared and it has been treated as one incident led by Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service since. As of today (Monday 16 July) the fire is no longer being treated as a major incident.
At the height of the incident there were over 30 fire engines supported by multiple partners, specialist wildfire fighting teams and fire and rescue services from other areas of the country.