Words by Gary Carter
STALYBRIDGE MP Jonathan Reynolds has been assured the military helicopters earmarked for use in tackling the moorland fire are up to the job.
And the Government expects ‘the full weight of the law’ to be applied to anyone who may be arrested in relation to the blaze.
Firefighters are still tackling the fire, which started near Buckton Hill above Carrbrook last Sunday before reigniting and spreading last Monday.
As smoke still lingers and the smell of burning remains prevalent around the area, Mr Reynolds raised an urgent question in the House of Commons.
He addressed rumours that military helicopters do not have the correct equipment to tackle fire while the Scottish National Party’s Joanna Cherry mentioned the appeals for things like suncream and socks that were issued on social media.
And home office minister Nick Hurd eventually settled any talk about the equipment.
He said to Manchester Withington’s Jeff Smith: “I don’t believe that is the case.
“A military helicopter was requested and deployed but not actually used. Helicopters that are being used have been supplied by the water company but an RAF helicopter was requested and was deployed.”
Mr Reynolds, MP for Stalybridge and Hyde, singled out people living on Calico Crescent in Carrbrook who were evacuated on Tuesday night for their ‘stoic’ response.
However, he also raised concerns at the Government’s response and the lack of a COBRA committee meeting, as well as raising the prospect of the blaze having an effect on future flood prevention strategies.
Mr Reynolds said: “Words alone cannot adequately describe the scale of the challenge this fire has posed to my constituents and to the emergency services.
“But given that there are two major incidents just 25 miles apart, including a threat to major communications infrastructures at Winter Hill, myself and many colleagues were surprised there was no COBRA meeting was convened over the weekend.
“Also, is there any truth in the rumour that military helicopters can’t be used to fight the fire because they no longer possess the correct firefighting equipment?
“Our flooding plans are predicated on the moors being able to absorb significant rainfall. That capacity is obviously going to be affected.”
After one person was arrested in connection with the fire at Winter Hill, near Bolton, talk is growing that trail bikers may have been responsible for sparking the Tameside Moor blaze.
And while warning expected weather conditions mean it may go on, Mr Hurd said he expects anyone who may be charged over either incident to be hit hard.
He added answering a question from Conservative MP Philip Hollobone: “Arson is the most terrible crime.
“One arrest has been made and of course the criminal justice process must reach its conclusion but I do expect the full weight of the law to be applied.
“The current hot, dry weather means the fires are likely to persist for some time.”