Pictures: Heat of Saddleworth fire 'truly energy sapping' as blaze enters fifth day

Firefighters tackle the wildfire on Saddleworth Moor. Credit: Manchester Fire and Rescue Service/PA

Beating at flames in "truly energy sapping" heat, these pictures show the sheer enormity of the task exhausted Manchester firefighters face as they seek to bring an end to the blaze sweeping across Saddleworth Moor.

Yet with no rain forecast and hot, dry weather set to continue, there are fears the blaze could continue burning for weeks.

Firefighters are also facing a second blaze on Winter Hill, which is around 1.5 hours away from the Saddleworth Moors.

Manchester Fire have said they are "massively busy" and have asked the public to keep themselves safe and only ring the fire brigade in an emergency.

This, coupled with fears that a change in wind direction could cause the fires to change direction and gain new fuel from dry plants and provide more fuel for burning, means there is no immediate end in sight for firefighters and their seemingly insurmountable task.

The pictures below show the sheer scale of the devastation caused by the fire.

As the fire enters its fifth day and shows no signs of abating, members of the military have been called in to help the 100 firefighters tackle the "biggest fire in living memory".

Residents living near the moor are reporting health problems brought on by the blaze, including nose bleeds, eye irritation and chest issues.

Local GP Dr Richard Bircher, of Lockside Medical Centre in Stalybridge, said about half the emergency appointments booked on Thursday were from patients reporting problems as a result of the smoke.

"People are worried about it. They are minor symptoms but people are a bit scared.

"Thankfully the smoke is getting less at the moment, but the advice is to try to avoid it," he said.

A helicopter gathers water to help douse the flames. Credit: PA

The inclusion of the military will allow Manchester Fire Service to keep other fire stations and engines available to deal with emergency calls as the moorland blaze continues.

Members of the military have been called in to help firefighters. Credit: Manchester Fire and Rescue Service

On Wednesday night, smoke from the seven square miles of fire turned the sun red, while ash rained down from the sky as the inferno raged in the vast tract of barren land, high on the hills straddling Greater Manchester, Yorkshire and Derbyshire.

Smoke from the fire turned the sky red on Wednesday evening. Credit: Manchester Fire and Rescue Service

As well as the firefighters on the ground, a helicopter has been dropping water on to the fires, but what the force really needs to help them out is rain, and none is forecast.

A helicopter has been dropping water on the fire. Credit: PA

Due to the predicted hot, dry weather, Assistant Chief Fire Officer Tony Hunter said the fire could be "prolonged for days, if not weeks.

"It is dependent on a downpour of rain - and it would have to be a significant downpour of rain because it is so dry it would be absorbed very, very quickly."

He also warned that a change in wind direction could create a "different picture then in terms of the fuel available to this fire".

A change of wind direction could cause the fires to spread more. Credit: PA

Such is the extent of the fire that NASA satellites have picked up the plumes of smoke.

While firefighters have been hard at work, they have been provided with refreshments by local residents and businesses .

People in nearby Stalybridge are given face masks as smoke from the fire blows towards their homes. Credit: PA

The cause of the original seat of the fire - thought to be at Buckton Hill, Carrbrook - has not been established but fire chiefs said a detailed investigation would be launched at the appropriate time.

The fire covers seven square miles. Credit: PA

The advice to locals has been to “be aware” of the smoke and local conditions, keep access routes free for emergency services vehicles and stay away from where they are working.

Streets in nearby Carrbrook have been left shrouded in smoke. Credit: SWNS

Air quality levels in the area are being monitored regularly, with people in affected areas urged to follow advice from Public Health England and keep their windows and doors closed.

A handful of local schools have been closed.

Experts warned that high levels of pollutants generated from the blaze could have a significant effect on people’s health.