Praying for rain

It’s not often you would ever hear me wish for rain as I can’t stand the stuff, and the current hot sunny weather suits me just fine, but locally there’s been a disaster of such huge proportions that I think many people would welcome a rain storm just now. Soon after 3pm on Thursday last week a wildfire started on Winter Hill not far from the tv mast – about three hours later, as I took the rubbish round to the skip at work, I noticed a big plume of smoke rising up some distance away but couldn’t tell from there where it was coming from. It was only as I was driving home and heading in the right direction that I saw that the smoke was coming from the moorland only a couple of miles up the road from home.
Initially a total of twelve fire engines were sent to tackle the blaze but by nightfall it was covering more than 250 acres with fifteen fire crews trying to stop it from spreading. On Friday a 22-year old man was arrested for arson on suspicion of starting the Winter Hill fire (although later released) but on the same day a second fire started further down the moorland and just above Scout Road where I walked along with the dogs on my quarry walk in early June – it was also just above the path which I walked three times last year to get to the vicinity of the tv mast. This second fire was reported to be one-and-a-quarter miles long and another fifty firefighters were sent there to deal with it, but due to a stiff breeze blowing up on Saturday it merged with the original fire on Winter Hill and a major incident was declared because of possible damage to the tv mast and also the nearby communications systems. Various roads in the area have been closed off, including the one running past the end of my street and going up to Belmont Village and beyond, and at one point, looking between nearby trees and houses, I could see part of the fire from my bedroom window.
On Sunday Michael and I had a drive out to Southport and on the way back we could see part of Winter Hill and the smoke from about twenty miles away, although as most of it now seems to be coming from the back of the hill I can no longer see it from my bedroom window, but with the wind in the right direction I can certainly smell it. As of yesterday the fire has covered more than 3 square miles with as many as 29 fire engines tackling the blaze and helicopters doing more than five runs per hour dropping water on it. With the moorland being made up of mainly peat the ground is burning underneath the surface so as fast as the flames are being extinguished in one place they are starting up again somewhere else – it’s been estimated that it could take another week to extinguish the whole lot completely.
Copy of southport July 2018 045
Smoke from the Winter Hill fire, seen on Sunday while passing Lower Rivington reservoir
Copy of southport July 2018 047
Copy of July 2018 003
Monday evening sunset over Winter Hill, taken from the bedroom window
The one thing which saddens me about all this is the loss of various forms of flora and fauna. The Woodland Trust owns a 1,700 acre estate in that area, part of which is on some of the affected land, and a large part of that estate has been burnt; it was home to several species of delicate and rare plants, and creatures such as the brown hare, lapwing and common lizard. Breeding and ground-nesting birds will have been affected and the fire has also burnt into the first trees to be planted as part of the Northern Forest project; whole eco systems will have been wiped out and the habitat will take years to recover. I wonder if the person, or persons, who started all this, whether deliberately or carelessly, ever stopped to think what consequences their actions would have for everything and everyone affected? – probably not.
Although the photos above are the only ones I’ve been able to take of part of the fire (the public are being advised to stay away from the area although there are some idiots who are ignoring that advice) there are some excellent and very powerful shots to be seen on here.  A recent weather forecast is for the hot dry days to continue for a while yet so as much as I don’t like rain I really hope we get a prolonged and torrential downpour before too long and the fire is extinguished properly before it does any more damage.

17 thoughts on “Praying for rain

  1. I’ve seen the fire on the TV news reports and knew it was where you’ve walked recently. You have to feel for the firemen battling to get the fire under control. Idiot arsonists make my blood boil, but as the ground is so dry fires can start naturally, discarded bottles act as magnifying glasses. I always feel so sad for the wildlife that’s lost. Once we have plenty of rain the moorland will recover but in the meantime I’ll definitely be praying for rain.

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    1. An update at 9.45am today says that there are now 30 fire engines at the scene including crews from Shropshire, Tyne & Wear and Nottinghamshire, and a high pressure pump is in place to get water from the reservoir by the main road on the Scout Road side of the moor. I have every admiration for the firefighters working long hours tackling this blaze in such hot weather, it must be so difficult for them. As lovely as this sunny summer is I just hope we get some decent rain soon.

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  2. Oh this is your neck of the woods. I am so sorry. Heartbreaking. I agree…we do need a good torrential downpour for definite. I really hope so. Sick of people leaving litter everywhere too when visiting our lovely countryside. Xxx

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    1. Yes, this is my neck of the woods – lovely countryside and moorland on the doorstep but much of it now charred and burnt by fire and I feel so sad for all the wildlife that’s been affected. And don’t get me started on people who leave litter everywhere! 😦

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        1. As regards any fundraising it’s probably too soon to say, but I know that on the Woodland Trust’s website they have a ‘support us’ page with a link to the ongoing Smithills Estate Appeal – as this estate covers some of the land affected by the fire I should imagine the Trust will be working to repair any habitat damage as and when they can.

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    1. It certainly is. For people who don’t live near here it’s probably hard to comprehend the level of devastation this fire is causing, but as it’s only just up the road from me in an area I know well and where I sometimes walk the dogs the damage is really heartbreaking 😦

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  3. The loss of moorland is terrible and it is unbelievable that the helicopter crew dropping water spottted people lighting more fires.
    The moors here are always under threat and the steam railway has to be so very careful.

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  4. There have been fires up on the moors in the past but never on such a large scale as this – the land affected will take a long time to recover from it 😦 😦

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  5. This heat and the wild fires are very reminiscent of my childhood summers. Walking on crunchy grass and watching the garden quietly struggle. A little … ok … A lot … rain would not go amiss x

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  6. The first time my partner and I went to Cape Town several years ago his relatives took us up Table Mountain one day. On the drive up there we were passed by a couple of fire trucks and when we got halfway up we were stopped from going any further as part of the mountainside was on fire – it was amazing to see that as they put it out in one area it was lighting up again in another as everywhere was so dry. It was all put out eventually though and we continued up to the cable car station – in comparison it was nowhere near the scale of my current local one but it was bad enough and just showed how easily dry vegetation can set alight 😦

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  7. Admittedly climate change probably doesn’t help – a member of the Fire Brigades Union has said that “a moorland fire on this scale is fortunately rare but the effects of climate change could make similar large-scale incidents more frequent” – but it’s suspected that this was started by an arsonist. Even on Sunday a fire was started by arsonists in an area of the moors previously unaffected by the first fire, but fortunately they were seen by the helicopter crew flying round the area and the incident was dealt with. I have to wonder just what’s going through the minds of these idiots when they do things like this 😦

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  8. Horrendous, and the latest tragedy in Salisbury plus some daft blokes kicking a ball about will push this off the media radar.

    I too have been thinking about the effect on wildlife – incalculable. Incredibly sad 😦

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  9. The area affected now extends to five square miles. Belmont village, where my friend lives, had been completely shut off but there’s no shop in the village so a road leading to another area, and away from the fire, has now been reopened to allow residents in and out. I went over there four times this morning and could see part of the moorland still smouldering.

    It was reported yesterday morning that on Tuesday evening some of the local Mountain Rescue Team saw 3 deer and some pheasants so there’s still some signs of wildlife among the burnt land and the smoke, but it’s heartbreaking to think of all that’s been lost. I’ve managed to get a few photos from a couple of (safe) vantage points so I’ll be posting an update later on.

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