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Concern for environment one year after Saddleworth Moors wildfires

05 July 2019


Firefighters attempt to halt the spread of the fire on Saddleworth Moor in 2018

Firefighters attempt to halt the spread of the fire on Saddleworth Moor in 2018

A YEAR after fires destroyed large parts of Saddleworth Moors, the community has long since recovered, but the damage to the environment has been lasting, a priest in the area has said.

Soldiers were drafted in to help firefighters and police tackle the blaze, in June last year (News, 29 June 2018). It was seven square miles across at its height, and damaged more than 2000 acres of moorland over two weeks. The fires, which spread down to the hillsides near Carrbrook, had also threatened 100 properties, and 50 homes were evacuated.

The priest, the Revd Chris Viney, who is the Assistant Curate of St James’s, Millbrook, said this week: “The fires on the moors above continued to burn long after the hillsides fires were extinguished. Those hillsides have recovered much more quickly than the moors above them, as they were not subjected to deep-seated fires that took hold in the sub-soil moorland peat.

“The local environmental groups are still concerned as to whether permanent damage has been caused to what is a very sensitive — almost unique — moorland environment.”

The buildings were undamaged during the blaze, and no casualties were recorded. “The event was dealt with at the time without undue fuss, recovered from very quickly, and — perhaps — put to the back of people’s minds very soon after the event,” he said. “This may be due to the mindset of ‘northern folk’, and definitely follows on from the fact there were no casualties.”

The Bishops in the dioceses said this week: “This time last year, communities in Lancashire and parts of Greater Manchester were threatened by wildfires on our moorland. Some families had to leave their homes, and there was huge disruption across the region as a result of the blazes.”

The Archdeacon of Macclesfield, the Ven. Ian Bishop, said: “The community is aware of the risk posed by dry conditions, but, given the current weather conditions, the risk is low. The moor is recovering, but significant damage has been done, and it will take time.”

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