Firefighters continue to tackle moorland blaze – and thank people for their support

FIREFIGHTERS are battling against difficult conditions as they continue to tackle the large moorland fire near Leek

Members of the public are again being urged to stay away from The Roaches area near the village of Upperhulme.

The fire broke out on began on Thursday  afternoon, and has so far destroyed around 200 acres woodland and heathland

Firefighters remained at the incident over the weekend, facing difficult weather conditions as heavy wind and rain set in.

Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service group manager Dermot Hogan said: “While the rain over the weekend was of some help it cannot extinguish the fire, which is very deep seated due to the peat soil in the area.

“The top layer smokes but even when that is dampened the peat underneath continues to smoulder, meaning there is the potential for it to reignite.

“This is why it is likely we will remain at the incident for sometime, as there is so much land to cover, firefighters must first use a strong jet of water to reach the peat underneath the surface and then spray the area to ensure that patch is fully extinguished.

“The main issue has been and continues to be the changeable winds which have caused the fire to spread. Colleagues from the Peak District National Park and Staffordshire Wildlife Trust arranged for a tractor unit with a flail mower to create a fire break in the land, which has stopped further spread.

“Thankfully only a small number of homes were evacuated on Thursday and we have worked hard to protect them from the fire. Thankfully it’s now safe enough for us to allow those residents to return home.

“The main ridge and surrounding pathways are still very much off limits for walkers and climbers, this will be the case for the next few days but we’ll continue to reassess this and update the public when the area is safe to use again.

“We’d like to thank the public for their overwhelming messages of support and the generous donations of food and drink that have been made – we’ve had over 20 donations, along with local food outlets and businesses helping to provide refreshments for crews.

“Thank you also to the Winking Man pub who have let us use their car park as a base, a local hall which opened so firefighters could take rest intervals during the night and other local venues that have provided food and welfare facilities to our crews.

“Our firefighters have also been catered for by Rapid Relief who have done a fantastic job.

“We are also very appreciative of the incredible support from our partners, who have been essential in the response to this incident. They’ve provided vehicles and specialist resources who have in depth knowledge of the area.”

JON Rowe, from Staffordshire Wildlife Trust, said the fire would be “devastating” for wildlife.

He said the charity had noticed a lot of animal displacement and the fire would cause a “huge loss of habitat”.