Police helicopter 'spots arsonists starting new fires on moor' as firefighters battle huge Lancashire blaze

Fire service reports sighting of individuals trying to start fresh wildfires close to Winter Hill

Tom Barnes
Monday 02 July 2018 14:42
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Saddleworth Moor fire rages in timelapse video

Arsonists have reportedly been spotted by authorities trying to start new blazes in Lancashire close to an area of moorland where a large wildfire continues to burn.

A police helicopter is understood to have seen a group of people attempting to light fires at a grassland called Healey Nab, just four miles away from Winter Hill, where firefighters are currently tackling a huge blaze.

Tony Crook, from Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service, told Sky News the incident was “absolutely heart-breaking and unbelievable.”

"Unbelievably, just the other side of the reservoir, there is a fire developing in that location,” Mr Crook said.

He described that as the helicopter had flown over the moors, it had seen people “actually lighting fires”.

“Police are now attending that scene, to try to apprehend those arsonists,” he added: “It absolutely astounds me.”

More than 120 firefighters on Sunday launched a “large scale attack” against the wildfire, which has been raging on nearby Saddleworth Moor for more than a week.

A major incident was declared on Saturday after two huge fires already burning on the moor merged due to high winds.

Greater Manchester Police and firefighters have warned pedestrians and motorists to stay away from the scene, while people have also been urged not to fly drones nearby due the risks posed to emergency helicopter pilots operating in the area.

“Offensive firefighting is focusing on getting water onto nearby woodland to ensure any flame flare ups don't spread to that area and we have been working with partners to secure the road and infrastructure up on the top of the hill at the mast sites,” a fire brigade spokesman said.

“We are looking into getting helicopter support later in the day to assist with getting water onto the incident ground in this area.”

One man, aged, 22, from Bolton, has already been arrested on suspicion of arson with intent to endanger life in connection with the blaze.

Emergencies crews working to extinguish the fire are likely to be working in hot conditions with “no significant rain forecast,” throughout next week, according to the Met Office.

“The trend is for dry and very warm weather, which is far from ideal. Thunderstorms in the South West are unlikely to reach that far north,” said forecaster Helen Roberts.

“On Wednesday, there is the potential for showers in that vicinity but it could be a one-off, isolated and unlikely to hit the area.

“Thursday is similar and any showers would be isolated and fleeting.”

Additional reporting by PA

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