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As a result of the hot dry weather, it has been a devastating few months with regards to large areas of the UK including Saddleworth Moor in the North of England. Wildfires have raged virtually unabated across the country presenting some very real challenges to the various fire and rescue services. The latest blaze which lasted for three weeks before it was contained by fire crews, fire specialists and the army, is being called the largest wildfire in living memory within the United Kingdom.
Temperatures reached over 30C for several days making June 2018 the hottest in the UK since 1995, and the dry conditions were exacerbated by winds. There was at the same time a strong warm anticyclone caused by anticlockwise wind circulation around the UK and Ireland. These factors combined create a perfect recipe for fire to break out, which can then spread quickly. There was even a hosepipe ban imposed in Northern Ireland, the first one for over twenty years.
Late June saw persistent high pressure coming from southern Europe, and prolonged high temperatures, labelled an official heatwave throughout Britain. Porthmadog in Gwynedd, Wales recorded temperatures of 32.6 °C (90.7 °F) on 28th June.
The first fire on Saddleworth Moor bloke out in an area between Manchester and Sheffield on 24th June, but was put out the same day. Pockets of fire continued to ignite the next day, becoming uncontrollable over the next few days prompting a ‘major incident’ declaration. There were 2,000 acres of land alight by 27th June, and wind speed and direction helped to spread the flames far and wide across the arid moorland. Most of the time extinguishing the fire was futile, as it would simply smoulder for a time then reignite.
Air quality was affected due to the amount of drifting smoke, and nearby residents were advised to wear masks when outside, and keep doors and windows closed. A great deal of team work and some welcome rainfall eventually achieved success, although the Saddleworth Moor fire was just one of many awful incidents of fire that won’t be forgotten in a hurry in June 2018.