United Utilities is set to provide a second helicopter to support Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service’s (GMFRS) efforts fighting the wildfires on the Tameside moors.
Yesterday afternoon the Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, visited the scene of the fires which have hit communities near Stalybridge for nine consecutive days and met with firefighters and officers.
On hearing about the significant impact aerial support had already made to fighting the fire, the Mayor immediately contacted United Utilities, who have been in dialogue with GMFRS across the past week and had already generously provided one helicopter, to explore the possibility of a second.
Within hours the company responded positively and this afternoon GMFRS submitted a formal request. The new aerial support will be in the air above the moors from tomorrow morning (Wednesday 3 July) and both helicopters will be placed under the control of the emergency services.
Andy said: “Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service have made excellent progress over the past week, with support from the military, in containing and controlling the wildfires at Saddleworth. But when I visited yesterday it was made plain to me that more aerial support would make an enormous difference. So I am immensely grateful to United Utilities for responding to my request and delivering this second helicopter to the scene of the fires in Tameside.
"It is also extremely helpful that United Utilities have agreed to put both helicopters under the control of the emergency services. It is another example of how the community and businesses across the North West are pulling together to support our firefighters during this exceptionally challenge time. They are doing a magnificent job in very difficult conditions and I cannot praise them enough. But, thanks to the swift response of United Utilities, they will have extra support above them in the skies tomorrow."
As well as discussing the extra firefighting capability, the Mayor heard yesterday how GMFRS would benefit from being able to co-ordinate water drops from the air, a task previously controlled by helicopter pilots. From tomorrow morning both United Utilities helicopters will be directed from the ground, allowing for greater tactical flexibility and reactiveness.
Steve Fraser, Chief Operating Officer at United Utilities said: “Our team appreciated the Mayor’s visit which was a boost during what is proving to be a very gruelling and strenuous incident. I’m pleased that we have now been able to source an additional helicopter as part of our continuing support for the firefighting effort.”
At the moorland fire in Tameside crews and specialist officers continue to work across five areas of fire.
GMFRS Area Manager, Jim Hutton said: “I can’t thank our neighbouring fire and rescue services, partners and the community enough for their support over the past week.
“Whilst you are enjoying the World Cup this evening, please think of our crews who are continuing to tackle two major moorland fires. With this in mind, please don’t make their job any harder by leaving barbecues unattended or cooking whilst drinking alcohol.
“I would also urge people to take care around water – it may be tempting to cool off in a reservoir or lake but the even the strongest of swimmers can get into difficulties and there can be unknown hazards underwater.”