Bishops send up prayers as moor fires continue to smoulder

05 July 2018

PA

A firefighter works on Winter Hill near Bolton

A firefighter works on Winter Hill near Bolton

THREE Lancashire Bishops have offered prayers for those affected by moorland fires around Greater Manchester, as blazes continue to break out despite more than a week spent attempting to extinguish them.

The Bishop of Blackburn, the Rt Revd Julian Henderson; the Bishop of Burnley, the Rt Revd Philip North; and the Bishop of Lancaster, Dr Jill Duff, released a joint statement on Wednesday commending the work of the emergency services and the army.

Firefighters from across the country have been attacking the fire on Saddleworth Moor (News, 29 June) as well as on Winter Hill in Bolton, and in parts of Staffordshire.

The bishops said: “Our thoughts and prayers are with all those who may have had to leave their homes, and with all those who are facing disruption in any other way.

“We also join with parishes across our diocese in praying for the brave members of the emergency services and the Army who are working tirelessly together to ensure the safety of those affected and to put the blazes out.”

On Wednesday police announced that they were investigating the Saddleworth Moor fire as arson. Chief Superintendent Neil Evans, territorial policing commander for Tameside, said: “The moorland fire is now being investigated as arson following information from local witnesses and initial inquiries.

“The scale of this fire is exceptional and we are treating it with the utmost seriousness. That said, we are under no illusion that solid evidence as to where the fire started and what was the cause will not be easy to establish.”

He urged anyone with information to come forward.

On Monday, Andy Burnham, the mayor of Greater Manchester, called on the Government to provide more resources to help tackle the incident.

Mr Burnham said that Sajid Javid, the Home Secretary, should “take a closer interest” in the fires. He told reporters: “Firefighters have been doing a brilliant job all weekend, but one of the things I take away from this visit [to the scene] is I think they need more support, possibly air support.

“Later today I’ll be seeking a phone call with the Home Secretary to relay what I’ve seen and to ask the Government to take a closer interest in what is happening on the ground here.”

The military support that was drafted in to help contain the blaze on Saddleworth Moor had its deployment extended until Friday by the Government. The Prime Minister’s spokesperson said further requests for support would be considered, the BBC reported.

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