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Soldiers help exhausted firefighters with moorland blaze

Credit: Press Association

Exhausted firefighters will be helped by 100 soldiers as they battle a moorland blaze which fire chiefs said may last for weeks as the scorching weather continues.

The troops from the 4th Battalion, Royal Regiment of Scotland, will join more than 100 firefighters who have been working rolling 12-hour shifts to tackle the seven square miles of Saddleworth Moor, smouldering with pockets of fire since Sunday.

An RAF Chinook is also on stand-by should Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service (GMFRS) request helicopter help to airlift heavy equipment to the high ground.

Credit: Press Association

We have not seen an indication of any rain coming within the next couple of days stroke weeks, so we can see this being 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.

"If there is a change in wind to the opposite direction, it is a completely different picture then in terms of the fuel available to this fire."

– Assistant Chief Fire Officer Tony Hunter, Greater Manchester

Mr Hunter said the firefront has widened to two to two-and-a-half miles (3km-4km), in six different locations, and if the wind blows the flames back on to the moors it will act as a "fuel source" for the fire.

Firefighters had been working until dusk on Wednesday night and, as it was too dangerous to go on the moors at night while it is on fire, an assessment at first light showed there was no "significant increase".

We are here in support of the fire and rescue; there is a finite number of people, they were here yesterday, they have been here for a number of days, so it is actually providing a group of individuals that can provide support.

"We will make sure the soldiers are working alongside the fire and rescue personnel so they are going to be pairing up together.

"I think we are looking at one firefighter to three or four troops, so they can provide extra manpower to go and support them."

– RAF Wing Commander Tony Lane
Credit: Christina Mcdowall, ITV Good Morning Britain

Mr Hunter said the soldiers' help would allow the service to keep other fire stations and engines available to deal with emergency calls as the moorland blaze continues

He thanked local residents and businesses who had provided refreshments to officers and asked the public 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.

If the fire worsens, GMFRS will be able to an on-call out an RAF Chinook helicopter, based at RAF Odiham in Hampshire.

It would be used to lift a high-volume pump, capable of pumping 7,000 litres of water a minute, to pump water up on to the moors.

Firefighters have used beaters, and a helicopter has been dropping water on to the fires, which first started on Sunday and led to around 40 homes being evacuated on Tuesday night in Carrbrook, near Stalybridge.

Fire chiefs say it is the worst moorland fire in living memory to hit Saddleworth, a vast tract of barren land, high on the hills straddling Greater Manchester, Yorkshire and Derbyshire.

The impact could even be seen from space as Nasa satellites picked up the plumes of smoke.

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.

Credit: Press Association

No rain is forecast for the area for the rest of the week at least.

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.

WATCH: Military help fight massive moorland blaze

A hundred soldiers are being deployed to help fight the multiple fires that have been burning on Saddleworth Moor for four days.

Wing Commander Gary Lane from the RAF and Greater Manchester's Assistant Chief Fire Officer Tony Hunter have been explaining the massive operation:

Firefighters have been working through the night at the site above Stalybridge - which has been described as a "belt of fire".

An RAF helicopter is expected to arrive later to airlift firefighters and industrial water pumps to the top of the moors to tackle the difficult pockets of wildfire.

People are being urged to keep their windows shut today because of the increased air pollution.

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