The Moorland Association today praised the commitment and determination of gamekeepers in tackling a large wildfire on moorland in Saddleworth Moor that is spreading fast in the Greater Manchester area.
Gamekeepers from the Peak District Moorland Group as well as local farmers continue to combat the fire alongside fire crew. Dozens of homes have been evacuated in what has been described as an unprecedented wildfire.
The blaze was initially reported on Saturday and fire fighters believe it started in an area at Tameside called Buckton Hill, Carrbrook, an area which is used extensively by riders on off road motor bikes. Gamekeepers initially put out a fire on Sunday evening believed to be in connection with illegal off-road bikes forcing entry in private land, but it reignited on Monday, moving at speed from the Staley area onto Arnfield and stretching several miles long.
Keepers from the local estates, experienced and trained in tackling moorland fires, battled on into the darkness, using their all-terrain vehicles specially equipped with firefighting kit. The unit was continually topped up with water by fire crews on site.
Keeper Richard Bailey, who is part of the team tackling the blaze, said: “We were told by the fire service they believed the fire had been started by illegal off-road bikes forcing entry into private land – which is very distressing. The devastation is plain to see. Over 2,000 acres have been destroyed up to this point and there is no sign of a slowdown yet. Curlew, Grouse, Canada Geese, Meadow Pipit and Short Eared Owl all had nests burnt out, mountain hares and their young are being trapped by flames.
“The farmers who continue to help tackle the blaze are terrific and we all know we had to keep going to make sure the fire could be put out.”
Amanda Anderson, Director of the Moorland Association, said: “Keepers are acutely aware of the risk of wildfire at this time of year and are used to dealing with fires quickly, but the scale of this fire is unprecedented, and we believe it may be the biggest in living memory.
It reinforces the need for those enjoying the countryside to understand what they can do to prevent any possibility of fire – do not force entry into private land, take all rubbish home, especially broken glass, and do not throw cigarette butts into the vegetation. Camp fires, off-roading and barbeques are illegal on open moorland.”