SOLDIERS sent to help firefighters battling the unprecedented moorland fires in Saddleworth have been stood down.

Beverly Hughes, Greater Manchester’s deputy mayor for policing, crime and fire, said the order for military support was not being extended into the weekend as fiirefighters were making good progress despite conditions remaining challenging.

More than 100 troops from the 4th Battalion, Royal Regiment of Scotland were deployed to Saddleworth Moor nine days ago as fires raged out of control.

A helicopter flyover was carried out this morning to assess the scene and the soldiers were immediately released.

Ms Hughes said: “We are extremely grateful to the Royal Regiment of Scotland troops for their support during this very challenging time and I want to thank them on behalf of the fire service and also the public of Greater Manchester.

“Today there are 11 GMFRS fire crews at the Tameside incident and good progress is being made – so much so that officers hope to be able to release crews from most of the other services by the weekend, with just a small number of special appliances and fire engines from Cheshire remaining for support.”

Also this morning, the Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, has announced that GMFRS crews will be released from some parts of the incident ground at Winter Hill where firefighters from Greater Manchester, Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service and other services from across the UK have spent eight days fighting a moorland fire.

It comes after he visited crews on the scene again to thank firefighters and officers for their efforts and see first-hand the work that is taking place.

Mr Burnham said: “I wanted to come here again today to say a huge thank you to all the crews fighting this fire including crews from Greater Manchester, Lancashire and many other fire and rescue services. They are working incredibly hard and the public are so grateful for their efforts.

“Following assessments of the incident ground on the Greater Manchester side of the hill yesterday, and in consultation with LFRS, today we are able to scale back some of GMFRS’ resources from that area. Good progress is being made and over the weekend there will be five GMFRS appliances supporting Lancashire.”

Maj Phil Morgan, officer commanding Alpha Company 4 SCOTS, said: “It’s been a real privilege to be involved in this firefighting effort. Not only has the task been completed but we have strengthened the bonds that already exist between the Army and our civilian partners.

"It has been a demanding but truly worthwhile task and my soldiers have met the challenge with absolute commitment and pride in their role, showing they are always ready to serve. We’d like to thank all of the agencies who have made our job easier, in particular GMFRS for its leadership and the wider community for making us feel so welcome.”

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