A series of fires suspected to have been started deliberately on land near Dovestone Reservoir is being investigated by police and brigade bosses. The blazes – between Sunday, July 10 and Tuesday, July 1 2 – were near the car park at the Oldham beauty spot, cops say.
A joint investigation between Greater Manchester Police and Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service is underway. There are understood to have been five incidents. Traces of accelerant have been found at three of the ‘seats’ – where the blazes are believe to have originated.
Cops say the fires could have been ‘devastating’ and have reminded people that a Public Space Protection Order (PSPO) is in place, covering Saddleworth Moor. It is a criminal offence to start fires in the area, including lighting barbecues.
Those who ignore the rules could be hit with fines of up to £1,000. Witnesses to the recent fires are being sought.
Superintendent Phillip Hutchinson, of GMP Oldham district, said: “Enquiries are ongoing to identify those responsible for starting these fires which could have had a devastating impact on the land, the wildlife and residents who live in the surrounding area. I ask anyone with information to share it with us as soon as possible.
“Maintaining safety at Saddleworth Moor is of great importance to both ourselves and our partner agencies. Only days before this fire, we attended an event during which we spoke with members of the public about how to use the area in the summer. Unfortunately, during this event, our officers sighted persons posing a risk so three fixed penalty notices were issued.
“I would like to use this opportunity to remind members of the public that there is a Public Space Protection Order in place at Saddleworth Moor – meaning it is a criminal offence to start fires in the area, including BBQs. A breach of the order can result in a £1,000 fine.
“I ask members of the public who frequent in the area and residents who live surrounding it to report anyone they suspect of planning and illegal BBQ or committing any other crime.”
Jim Wilmott, Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service Group Manager at Bury, Oldham and Rochdale, said: “We have seen just how devastating and damaging wildfires can be, especially in Saddleworth, in recent times.
“It’s difficult to understand why anyone would want to deliberately start a fire in moorlands, but sadly it does happen and when conditions are this dry, they grow quickly and easily out of control. For those who do think this is a good idea, you should know that not only does it destroy precious moorland, but it also puts local wildlife and people at danger, causing huge disruption and means our resources are often unable to attend other serious incidents.
“The evidence suggests that fires at Dovestone in Saddleworth were deliberately started. I urge people to contact Greater Manchester Police with any information you have about this so those responsible can be rightly punished. Our message is strong and clear – never have a barbecue or campfire in the countryside or start a fire deliberately. It’s selfish and dangerous.”
Call police on 101; or Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111.