FIREFIGHTERS on Saddleworth Moor were thanked this week by the Archdeacon of Macclesfield, the Ven. Ian Bishop, and the Bishop of Stockport, the Rt Revd Libby Lane, after a fire ripped through thousands of acres of land on Tuesday.
The blaze was seven square miles across at its height, and had destroyed more than 2000 acres of moorland by Thursday. More than 50 homes were evacuated. There were no reported injuries.
On Wednesday, 100 soldiers were drafted in to help contain the fire. Greater Manchester fire and rescue services said that it could take weeks to fully extinguish.
The Archdeacon and the Bishop said: “We give thanks for the local authorities and firefighters who are working to tackle the fire and keep people safe, and to the churches and local communities who are offering welcome and refuge to those in need.”
One local resident described the fires as “apocalyptic”.
The Revd Chris Viney, Assistant Curate of St James’s, Millbrook, said on Wednesday that he had never seen a fire on the moors like it before.
“I’ve lived in this immediate area for all my life, really. I think I can say that, within my memory — and I’m in my sixties — I’ve not seen fires on the moors to the extent that we’re looking at at the moment. . . We have had fires before but they are normally dealt with quite quickly.”
St James’s had stayed open to help those affected by the fire, as well as those who were tackling it.
“When we realised there were going to be evacuees we opened our church and the church hall,” Mr Viney said. “We are situated next to Carrbrook so we were ideally placed. . . We were given sleeping bags and equipment by the local scout group, and ladies from the local community gave their phone number so they could be contacted if we needed them.”
In the event, the church was not needed by evacuees; but Mr Viney said that it was used as an “impromptu media centre”.
Leon Parkes, assistant chief fire officer of the Greater Manchester fire and rescue service, said on Wednesday: “The area is really, really large. It’s a really difficult fire situation because of the size of it. . .
“Clearly the challenges are enormous. We have firefighters working in really hot conditions. They’re doing everything they can to control that fire. As you can appreciate, firefighters will have fire kit on which is heavy, thick, warm — the ground is hot, the smoke coming off the fire is thick.”