The firefighter who has been working 22-hour shifts on Winter Hill

Richard Taylor, 54, as been a firefighter for 34 years but he describes the last week as the busiest he has ever known. He said: “Up in the moors it’s difficult – it’s sticky it’s dusty, it’s humid. The dust gets in your eyes.

It’s horrible, it’s all the things that you don’t want. It’s very frustrating when the wind changes and the fire picks up again.” In the last week the watch commander, based at Colne station in Lancashire, has worked for 70 HOURS including two 22-hour shifts.

At 4pm he finished a shift on Winter Hill, having started at 6pm yesterday, with only a two-hour break at 2am to grab an hour’s kip and a shower. His son, Christopher, 25, decided to followed his footsteps into the fire service 18 months ago and now works as part of his team. “There’s no sign of rain coming and it’s forecast to be warm and dry for at least the next ten days,” he said.

“We’ve just been up there for ten hours straight. You might have to have your full kit on depending on what job you’re doing.” Richard, a retained firefighter, said: “You’ve got to look after the welfare of your staff.

We rotate, hydrate, change around. I’ve always loved my job, I haven’t even thought about retiring yet. “I’ve always liked coming to jobs like this because of the camaraderie and chance to help the community.

You want to do all you can to alleviate the damage for people living nearby.”

Firefighter Richard Taylor, pictured with his son Christopher, has been putting in 22 hour shifts fighting the moor blazes

He said: “It kicked off for us on Monday. It’s unprecedented conditions. I’ve been in the fire service for 34 years and I’ve never known it like this.

“We’ve had one of the busiest months on record, this month we’ve had 80 incidents, and that was before we were called out to these moor fires. I’ve been to Saddleworth and then here, to Winter Hill. “They need as many pumps as they can.

There’s pumps from everywhere. Tonight I’ll probably shower, change, have something to eat, sleep, and then I’ll probably go out again. It’s like a lifestyle, you get used to it.

Some can’t cope with it. Your wife’s got to be really sympathetic. You’ve got to have a supportive family.

Especially in conditions like this. Richard’s wife, Jacqui, works at the pharmacy in Asda, and they have a daughter, Lauren, 29 and a granddaughter, Grace who is 6 months old.

The eerie scene facing firefighters as the sun rose on Winter Hill on Monday morning

“Since we’ve first met – Jacqui’s known this is what I do, he said. “You work together, especially if you’ve got a young family.

My grandparents used to come back to our home and look after the kids if I was out and my wife was working. “It’s physically exhausting, it can be tiring mentally. What gets you through is camaraderie.

We all have that banter, we are always pulling each other’s legs. “The fire brigade has always been known for that. We have a good team out there.

It’s like a family. They say I’m too soft at the station, but I’ve always treated everyone as a family. “They know they can come to me.

We are a team and we get it sorted. It’s like if there’s something going on with my son or daughter, we try to work it out by working together.”

Firefighter Richard Taylor

In total up to 500 firefighters have tackled the fire in shifts around the clock, many already exhausted having come from the blaze on Saddleworth Moor. They have worked in horrendous conditions as the heatwave continues- with some retained staff working 22-hour shifts only leaving to go home and sleep briefly, before returning to the inferno.

Meanwhile another 90 firefighters and 100 soldiers spent a seventh day fighting the flames on Sadddleworth near Mossley, in Tameside. Crews from Tyne and Wear, Warwickshire, North Wales and Nottinghamshire, to name just a few, are helping fight both the Bolton and Saddleworth Moor fires along with soldiers from 4 SCOTS.

Images from the video shared by Lancashire Fire

Police and mountain rescue volunteers have also been a constant presence at both blazes, while the fire service has praised United Utilities for all its support. Helicopters have made repeated attempts to douse the fire from the air, dropping gallons of water on the hill from above but the task they face is huge.

The firefighters’ work is back breaking and often incredibly frustrating.

Crews have spent hours using beaters to try to suppress the flames on one section of the hill on Sunday, while their colleagues ferried water back and forth, and started to believe they had won their battle, only to watch as the land began to smoulder once again.

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And as if things weren’t bad enough already, a swarm of horseflies has descended on the hill, biting fire fighters as they work in the searing heat. “Up in the moors it’s difficult – it’s sticky it’s dusty, it’s humid. The dust gets in your eyes.

It’s horrible, it’s all the things that you don’t want. It’s very frustrating when the wind changes and the fire picks up again, ” says watch commander Richard Taylor.

Firefighters tackle a wildfire on Winter Hill near Bolton

During the evening, the skyline was lit up by an orange glow. Unlike the Saddleworth Moor blaze, thankfully no nearby homes have had to be evacuated.

But police have been forced to close roads for the publics’ safety. Asst chief fire officer Dave Keelan said: “This is an exceptionally challenging time and I am proud of the hard work and brave commitment of our firefighters.” Earlier in the week, there were concerns the blaze could affect the Winter Hill mast, a broadcasting and transmitting station which serves around six million homes, but fortunately the threat passed.

At the height of the fire, the plume of smoke was so large that it could be seen from miles around.

Images from the video shared by Lancashire Fire

Fire break trenches had to be dug to try to protect local buildings. While the vast majority of people have heeded the emergency services’ warning to stay away from the fire, the odd few have ignored their advice. One man had to be treated for smoke inhalation after crossing a police line and later collapsing after walking up to Pike Tower.

The fire service also had to issue a warning calling for amateur drone operators to keep away, due to the risk posed to the helicopter pilots.

A 22-year-old man from Bolton was arrested on suspicious of arson, in connection with the Winter Hill fire, before being ‘released under investigation’. Helicopter pilots even reported seeing people lighting new fires close to where crews were working. But the Greater Manchester public have rallied round to provide food and drink for the exhausted fire fighters, with the force opening up an extra drop off point at Bolton North station on Sunday afternoon.

Praise has also flooded in from political figures such as Andy Burnham, and fire bosses. Coun Linda Thomas, the leader of Bolton Council said: “I just wanted to thank the Fire and Rescue crews from Greater Manchester, Lancashire and around the country for their bravery and hard work in battling the fires on Winter Hill under such severe circumstances. “Thanks also to council staff and partner agencies for the part they have played.

Images from the video shared by Lancashire Fire

“As leader of the council I wish to extend our gratitude for what has been a tough few days for all dealing with a complex operation in very trying circumstances.

You’ve been brilliant.” Demand for water is now so great that United Utilities have urged the public to cut back on their use at home. With the fire service predicting that it could take many more days to fully extinguish the blaze, it seems that the brave crews still have many hours of hard work ahead of them.

The incredible pictures that show what’s happening on Winter HillView gallery

The situation on Winter Hill on Monday morning

  • No significant developments overnight.

    The fire is thought to be of similar scale to yesterday and has not developed or deteriorated much overnight.

  • Temperatures were slightly cooler overnight which has helped prevent it spreading any further.
  • Last night, as on all the other nights, firefighters withdrew to safe areas in the hours of darkness. However 19 fire crews remained on scene to monitor the situation and make sure it didn’t spread any further and cause a risk to life or property.
  • They began active firefighting again at first light with the number of fire engines increased to 22.
  • We are told there are still ‘lots and lots’ of different hotspots burning up on the moors across the area of the fire, which spans around 8 square KM, around 5 square miles.
  • The area where the most firefighting is going on is near Scout Road in Bolton, close to the village of Horrocks Fold. This was once a separate blaze but ‘merged’ with the Winter Hill on Saturday.
  • Manchester firefighters are involved in helping in this, and other areas, despite still tackling the fires on Saddleworth Moor.
  • The police helicopter is due to fly over the Winter Hill scene this morning taking images which will give fire chiefs a better idea of how it was changed overnight and areas they need to concentrate on.
  • The helicopter contracted by water company United Utilities to dump water on the moors is also due to return this morning.
  • It is now thought to be ‘very unlikely’ military assistance will be requested.
  • Lancashire and Manchester fire have had help from a number of other fire services across the North including from the North East, Cumbria and the Midlands and feel they have enough resources.

Saddleworth Moor fire in pictures: Extraordinary images show the blaze on hills above ManchesterView gallery

The situation on Saddleworth Moor on Monday morning

  • Firefighters are today beginning a second week, with this their eight day tackling the blaze, and which is still a major incident and covers a significant area.

    Crews are expected to remain there for several more days at least.

  • GMFRS say they made “significant progress” and have managed to contain it and prevent it spreading any further. However it has not been drastically reduced in size either.
  • The army troops drafted in to help will remain on the moors until tomorrow at the earliest. Chiefs say they have been ‘invaluable’ and praised their enthusiasm and professionalism.
  • Two High Volume Water Pumps, a new piece of kit which essentially create an overground water mains, have been moved onto the moors.

    It was initially the plan for a Chinook helicopter to do this however in the end an off-road forklift truck and other track vehicles were used to do this and these are helping firefighters get water to where they need it.

  • The temperatures and wind are providing the biggest challenge for firefighters
  • Everyone at the service is extremely grateful for the public’s support and the large number of donations of food, drinks and items like sun cream have been hugely appreciated.
  • However they emphasise that they are ‘uniquely stretched’ at dealing with this incident and helping fight the Winter Hill blaze and urging people to only call them in an emergency and also not do anything which may risk the fire service having to become involved. They cited the example of them having to extinguish an unattended camp fire in Heywood and said such incidents were a drain on their much needed resources.

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