‘Apocalyptic’ moors fire continues to rage

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Media captionDrones capture Saddleworth Moor wildfire

Firefighters are battling a huge moorland fire which is continuing to spread, as more than 50 homes have been evacuated.

The blaze on Saddleworth Moor, which measures 3.7miles (6km), has been raging since Sunday night.

About 150 people have been affected by the evacuations in Carrbrook, near Stalybridge, Greater Manchester.

One resident described seeing “ash falling like rain” and another said it “looked like the apocalypse”.

Matt Lomas, 76, who was evacuated with his wife, daughter and eight-month-old granddaughter Isla, said: “We could see flames 50ft high like a raging ball of fire all on the hill side.

“It was really scary, we were really worried the smoke would hurt Isla so we had to get out.”

Image copyright SWNS
Image caption Residents described hearing explosions as the fire continued to rage

Angela Brown, 59, said she saw “ash falling like rain” from the raging fire.

“It was terrifying. It was getting closer and closer. Every so often there was a crackle and flames would shoot in the air.”

Pete Woodward, 43, said: “It looked like the apocalypse. There was a towering inferno of flames.”

He said he “just grabbed a toothbrush and underpants” and got out with his partner and two young daughters.

“The flames were 500 metres long, it was a raging wildfire. You could hear the odd explosion but thankfully the house survived.”

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The fire service said it plans “a heavy attack” on the fire

The fire began on Sunday night, reignited on Monday during the hot weather and then spread throughout Tuesday, fanned by evening winds.

Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham said a “request to the military for extra support” is being prepared “so there is a back-up plan” to support firefighters.

“It’s not clear yet whether that will be needed, but the request is going to go in,” he told BBC Radio 5 live.

“I think everybody feels a great deal of gratitude towards them [firefighters] but it’s hit the point where reinforcements are needed and that’s what we’re arranging.”

Image caption Matt Lomas was evacuated with his eight-month-old granddaughter Isla

Police said the homes in Carr Rise, Carr Lane and Calico Crescent were being evacuated due to the proximity of the flames.

Tameside Borough Council leader Brenda Warrington said “over 50 homes have been evacuated with about 150 people involved”.

Jonathan Reynolds, MP for Stalybridge and Hyde, added: “We haven’t had anything of this scale in living memory, never had to evacuate people or close schools.”

Greater Manchester Fire and Recue Service (GMFRS) confirmed the blaze was spreading and said crews recommenced “offensive firefighting” at first light.

Assistant Chief Fire Officer Leon Parkes said there are 10 fire engines and 50 firefighters at the scene facing “enormous” challenges against the blaze which has “pockets” in different areas.

He said crews planned to “put a heavy attack” on the fire on Wednesday and said the Army are on standby to step in to help with the blaze, which has been declared a “major incident”.

Smoke and flames can still be seen for miles but Mr Parkes said crews had “quelled the risk” to homes at risk from the flames.

He said it had not been established what might have caused the fire.

Image copyright NPAS
Image caption Firefighters recommenced “offensive firefighting” on Wednesday morning

Greater Manchester Police’s Saddleworth division said about 2,000 acres of moorland had been destroyed in the fire.

Some 65,000 gallons of water were dropped on the blaze by a helicopter on Tuesday to fight the fire which was “unprecedented in recent times”, it added.

Firefighter Ricky Case, who has been out on the hills, said: “It’s just the sheer vastness of it. It’s one of the biggest ones I’ve been on in a long time.”

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Media captionSaddleworth Moor resident: “You could hardly breathe and your eyes were burning”

At the scene: Inzy Rashid, BBC Radio Manchester

Ash was falling from the sky on worried residents as they quickly packed their bags to flee the fire that blazed on the moors behind their homes in Carrbrook last night.

One resident took me through the smoke-filled streets to his farm where his cattle and sheep were huddled together, with black billowing plumes towering over them.

And this morning, the fire rages on. In the last hour more engines have arrived and there are at least 50 firefighters here.

Residents are clearly concerned that the hot weather may lead to pockets of fire rekindling, even as the smoke blocks the sun from view.

Image copyright NASA
Image caption Smoke from the fire could be seen from space from NASA’s satellites

Farmer Chris Keytes, 58, and his wife Jane, 50, refused to leave despite the fire being just 30ft from his farm and police asking them to go.

“I was concerned [but] we’re set up with masks and we put a towel under the door,” Mr Keytes said.

“We’ve had fires before but this one was pretty close.”

BBC Weather’s Simon King said there is a “brisk easterly wind” forecast for Wednesday with “little to no rain in the forecast for at least a week”.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Firefighters continued to battle the fire near Stalybridge at daybreak on Wednesday

Reverend Chris Finney, who has opened his church, St James’ in Millbrook, said: “I’ve lived in this area all my life and I think I can say that within my memory – and I’m in my 60s – I’ve not seen fires on the moors to the extent that we’re looking at them at the moment.”

Tameside councillor Clive Patrick added: “It’s terrifying. I’ve never seen it as bad as this. I’ve been here now 30 years and this is the worst I’ve seen.”

Huge amounts of smoke has drifted westwards, with large parts of Greater Manchester experiencing poor visibility.

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Image copyright Anthony Devlin/Getty Images
Image caption People living in Carrbrook moved animals amid the dense smoke

Public Health England offered advice to those affected by smoke. It tweeted: “Smoke is an irritant and can make people’s eyes and throat sore. Wash your face with soap and water and keep hydrated by drinking water.”

Three schools in the Tameside area have been closed on Wednesday, the council said.


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