With the sprawling wildfire on Saddleworth Moor finally under control, Bureau Veritas’ air monitoring services proved essential in helping the local authority and fire service tackle the worst moorland fire in living memory.
The fire, which broke out on 24 June, engulfed large swathes of moorland across Greater Manchester, resulting in mass evacuations and damage to an area stretching over 2,000 acres. In total, more than 100 firefighters and 60 soldiers worked round the clock day and night to battle the blaze, which took almost three weeks to contain.
Shortly after the fire began, first responders from Bureau Veritas’ fire science and air quality team were called upon to begin air monitoring as part of the firm’s scientific response contract with the Greater Manchester Combined Authorities.
At the height of the wildfire, the Bureau Veritas team worked through the night to assess the impact of the smoke plume from the Saddleworth Moor fires on the residential area of Carrbrook in Stalybridge, where around 34 homes were evacuated as the inferno edged closer to people’s properties.
Much of the monitoring involved gathering data 24 hours a day on Carbon Monoxide (CO) levels and particulate concentrations across various sites close to the fire. During the initial phase of the incident, the data, collected using handheld monitors and other specialist equipment was used by the Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service to ensure that workplace air quality limits for the fire officers attending the fire did not exceed toxic levels, where it could pose a danger to their health.
Subsequently, as the incident progressed, Bureau Veritas’ air quality data was utilised by the local authorities and government agencies such as Public Health England (PHE) and the Environment Agency to inform the subsequent risk assessments and safety policies put in place to protect the public.
For instance, the findings were used by PHE to advise local residents in areas affected by smoke to stay indoors and keep their doors and windows closed to avoid adverse effects to their health from smoke inhalation while local authorities made the decision to shut nearby schools that lacked adequate ventilation.
Sarah Bergin, Consultant Fire Scientist at Bureau Veritas, said: “The fire crews, who have been working round the clock for the past few weeks to bring these unprecedented wildfires under control, have done a fantastic job. Their dedication and commitment has been inspiring.
“We are delighted to have been able to use our fire science expertise and air monitoring
capability to support the local authorities, fire and rescue services and other agencies in
helping to keep our heroic firefighters and the public safe during what has been an incredibly challenging time for the community”.
“There is still a significant amount of work to be done in the aftermath of this devastating fire, as we continue to offer our services in ongoing air monitoring of the area. Although the Greater Manchester area has experienced a spate of wildfires of late, it is by no means the only region facing such hazards. The hot weather and dry ground are creating tinderbox conditions across many parts of the UK and we’d urge local authorities to act now to ensure they have the correct emergency response in place in the event of a fast-spreading wildfire.”
For further information, call +44 (0) 345 600 1828 or visit www.bureauveritas.co.uk