FIRE crews are scaling down their battle with fires raging on moorland moorland north of Bolton where a major incident has been declared after two large wildfires merged.

Around 150 firefirghters and 30 fire engines were deployed to the moorland as the fires on Winter Hill and Horrocks Moor are now being treated as one incident.

The fire services from Lancashire and Greater Manchester say they have made "significant progress" in tough conditions but will be back beating back the flames in the morning.

Throughout the day a helicopter was used to collect water from the reservoir at Belmont and dump it on the burning moor.

And while the fire services say they are confident there is a lessening danger of life and property, their attention is now focusing on the television transmitter and mobile phone masts at Winter Hill.

Assistant chief fire officer for Lancashire Fire and Rescue, David Russel, said: “In terms of risks to life and property, we are in a pretty good place. It’s the risk to national infrastructures - the masts on Winter Hill - that’s going to be the challenge.

"Our key priority is the towers on Winter Hill. We know there are BBC television and radio communications masts, and a tower for the Emergency Setvices Radio Network.

"A few days ago we dug trenches around the towers and flooded them but we won’t know if they have been breached until we are able to get up there.

"We’ve had the police helicopter up there and the drone, and from the images we’ve seen, it looks like all the towers are compromised through smoke but not flame.

"When we can get firefighters in and around the vicinity of the towers, then we’ll be able to make more of an informed assessment. 

"We’ve not had any reported loss of setvices from anything at the moment."

He added that, as night falls and humidity and the temperature drops, the operation is being scaled back.

"However, a number of pumps will be strategically placed at areas of concern and crews to monitor and prevent any areas that are at risk of getting any worse," he said.

Earlier today Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service had discussions to bring the army in to help control the blaze.

Members of the public are being urged to stay away from the area for their own safety, after concerns were raised that people were heading up the moors.

People are also advised to keep windows and doors shut to avoid smoke and ash.

A Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue spokesman said: "There was a fire on one side on Winter Hill and a one off Scout Road on the Rivington side.

"Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service were fighting the one on the Rivington side and Manchester were on the other side.

"These fires have now merged which has created an even bigger fire across quite an extensive area, and as a reult a major incident has been declared.

"It is now one incident, being led by Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service.

"We are in discussions with the army. Our senior officers are discussing the option of now bringing them in.

"Nothing has been decided but we are looking at using them if we can."

A number of roads were closed in the vicinity of the fire as emergency services scramble to battle the blaze.

A statement from GMP said: "We strongly urge motorists and pedestrians to adhere to ALL road closure signs as they are there for your safety.

"They are also in place to ensure that emergency services have clear access to continue tackling the fire."

The full list of roads closed is:   

Scout Road

Belmont Road

Smithills Dean Road

Longshore Ford Road

Walker Fold Road at the junction with Chorley Old Road

Georges Lane at the junction with Matchmoor Lane

Marklands Road at the junction with Georges Lane

Old Rake at the junction with Georges Lane

Belmont Road at the junction with Rivington Terraced Gardens

Crews were called to multiple fires on the hills, near to Scout Road, at 2 am on Friday morning, initially containing the blaze.

However, the flames flared up again in the intense heat and dry weather yesterday afternoon and continued overnight.

Dozens of firefighters and engines have since been dealing with the incident, supported by helicopters collecting water from High Rid Reservoir to halt the flames.

A second fire close to a radio mast on Winter Hill which erupted on Thursday was also being battled by crews.

Dramatic photos and video of the fire show the blaze covering a wide area with flames and smoke rising high into the sky, visible from the Horwich and Rivington areas.

A 22-year-old man from Bolton was arrested yesterday on suspicion of arson with intent to endanger life in connection with the blaze. But the exact origin and cause of the fire remain uncertain.

Elsewhere 100 military personal, support vehicles and chinook helicopter from the army have joined firefighters from across the region to tackle the fire continuing to rage on Saddleworth Moor.

GMFRS have urged people to keep themselves safe and take extra care, particularly with the continuing hot weather.

Head of Prevention for GMFRS, Area Manager Paul Etches, said: “The moorland incidents in Tameside are unprecedented and they have required a significant amount of our resources over the past few days. We hugely appreciate the support from other services and agencies but this incident has put us under a great deal of pressure.

“Today we’ve also had a number of other significant incidents and I’d like to appeal to the public to take extra care to keep themselves, their families and their property safe – particularly with the hot weather that is expected to continue over the next few days.

“We want people to enjoy the sunshine and we know there will be lots of people having barbecues and enjoying a drink while they watch the football, but this can be a recipe for disaster. Please stay safe by ensuring barbecues are used safely and are fully extinguished before you go to bed, and please take care when cooking – don’t leave pans unattended and don’t drink and cook.

“Take care around the water – in this weather it might seem like a good idea to cool off in a local reservoir or lake but the water can be a lot cooler than you think and can send your body into shock. Even the strongest of swimmers can get into difficulties and there can be unknown hazards lurking underwater.

“And please only call us in an emergency as our control room operators are extremely busy.”