THESE are scenes you do not expect to witness on the moors above Carrbrook and Millbrook in February.
Happily, it was no repeat of last summer’s moorland blazes which were described as the most serious in a generation.
This time it was wildfire training in conjunction with the local gamekeeper who is permitted to carry out controlled burning between mid-October and April.
The exercise was scheduled for Tuesday, February 12, but it had to be called off before lunch because the ground was too wet to set the moorland alight.
It was rescheduled three days later when conditions were perfect to put training exercises into practise so they are better equipped to fight future moorland blazes.
Crews from Mossley and Stalybridge were involved along with a fire service wildlife support station and wildfire unit station.
They worked with the gamekeeper on the moorland above Carrbrook and Millbrook as part of their ongoing training in wildfire firefighting.
Dave Swallow, station manager at Mossley and Stalybridge, explained the focus was on direct and indirect measures.
Direct involved extinguishing moorland blazes with water and beaters while indirect covers measures such as creating fire breaks.
He said: “The de-briefs that followed last summer’s fires have been completed so we are looking to start making improvements to equipment and how we handle moorland blazes.
“We have significant moorland fires most years around Manchester and it is important we are prepared the best we can to tackle them.”
The training allowed crews to observe and control real burns in the heather, which are completed at this time of year by the gamekeeper as part of the management of the moorland for grouse.
Supported by wildfire officers, the crews looked at fire behaviour and discussed extreme wildfire behaviour and its causes. They also utilised the gamekeepers’ flail mower to cut control lines and were able to see the effectiveness of using control lines to limit fire spread.
They also discussed and implemented the Laces Protocol to manage crews which is important to keep personnel safe at wildfires.
The crews, especially newer firefighters, got to use the forced air firefighting units in real life conditions gaining valuable experience in their effectiveness in supporting fire suppression in this type of environment.
The training involved the crews being on the hills for a full day so that we could make the most of the time. It is hoped that other WFU and WSS stations will be involved in this training in the future.
Station manager Swallow said: “Thanks has to go out, not only to the gamekeeper for allowing us to work with him, but also to the crews for their flexibility and enthusiasm in supporting this training due to it being organised at less than 24 hours’ notice.
“This is because the weather conditions have to be right, with a couple of dry days and suitable wind conditions, for the burns to be completed safely.”