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Executive Leader Cllr Brenda Warrington

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Councillor Brenda Warrington, Executive Leader of Tameside Council

Tameside Stands Together in Crisis

Wednesday, 04 July 2018


Since the beginning of last week, Tameside has been enduring the worst series of fires in living memory on the moors above Mossley and Stalybridge.

A comprehensive investigation of the damage wrought has yet to be carried out, but it is estimated that at least 2,000 acres, or 8 square kilometres, of moorland has been affected. At times, the fires were so widespread that NASA satellites were capable of picking the smoke out from orbit. If that wasn’t enough, in the days since a second fire has broken out between Winter Hill and Scout Road just outside Bolton. It is clear now, if it wasn’t before, that we are facing a natural disaster unlike anything we have ever seen before in this part of the UK.

It is at times like this that you see the true strength of individuals and communities, and I’m pleased to say that once again our emergency services, council staff and residents have proved beyond any doubt their resilience and bravery. Since the moors caught alight, firefighters from Greater Manchester, Yorkshire, the Midlands, Merseyside and elsewhere have been battling day and night to contain and control the situation. They have been supported throughout this by 100 army personnel from the 4th Battalion, Royal Regiment of Scotland, a Chinook helicopter and a number of other specialist organisations, including United Utilities, Public Health England and the Greater Manchester Police.

Officers here at Tameside Council have also played their part. One of the major obstacles in fighting a moorland fire is the sheer difficulty of the terrain, which makes getting the resources needed on site more difficult than it would usually be. We’ve provided 4x4 vehicles, driven by council staff, to help firefighters, officers and equipment get to areas that aren’t able to be accessed by fire engines. Other council officers are conducting daily and ongoing air quality assessments, communicating health advice and removing waste from the moorlands. Their willingness to go above and beyond the call of duty has been acknowledged by everybody involved in the firefighting efforts. At the same time, they have managed to continue providing as normal the everyday services that many of our residents depend on.

Our local residents, community groups and businesses have also rolled up their sleeves and helped out in any way they can. Following the evacuation of Calico Crescent in Carrbrook, many offered those who had to leave their homes places to stay. Many more brought refreshments and supplies, often paid for out of their own pocket, to those working on the moors. The strength of community spirit we have seen is nothing short of awe-inspiring, showing how the very best of Tameside emerges in the face of adversity.

It is a tribute to the combined efforts of all the services involved that the fires have so far been successfully tackled, with no loss of life or serious injury. But we also must look at the bigger picture. We do not yet know what caused the fires, although the police are currently investigating the possibility that they could have been started deliberately. However, they were undoubtedly exacerbated by a heatwave so intense that it has turned the acres of scrubland and vegetation into so much dry fuel and kindling. Since records began in 1910, the nine warmest years in British history have all occurred in the 2000s. We must be prepared for the possibility that, unless we start taking serious collective action as a planet, fires like we’ve seen over the past week will become increasingly commonplace.

That’s why I intend for Tameside to hold its own Green Summit by the end of this year. Modelled closely on the Greater Manchester event that took place in March, it will bring together experts, partners and residents to discuss how best to meet our environmental goals in Tameside. While I certainly don’t expect that we will turn the tide by ourselves, I expect us to do what we can locally to protect our environment for those living today and for future generations.

If you feel like you are at risk of being affected by the fires in either Tameside or Bolton, please consult the Public Health England advice here. Once again, my sincere thanks go out to everybody who has done their part to help us through the current situation. 

 

Posted by: Executive Leader


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