AFTER almost three weeks of non-stop battling against the flames on Winter Hill, the fire is now under full control and the major incident has been lifted.

The moorland blaze ignited atop the beauty spot on Thursday, June 28, and hundreds of firefighters armed with beaters, leaf blowers and hoses have been attempting to extinguish it ever since.

But finally, following the first rain showers in more than a month, Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service announced yesterday that it was now under full control and was no longer a major incident.

Chris Kenny, chief fire officer at Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service, said crews were now in “a strong position” but would continue to monitor the moorland for pockets of fire.

He added: “We’re in a strong position today in what’s been a very difficult and complex incident.

“Thanks to extremely hard work from our crews and partners, we have successfully protected the vital infrastructure and properties in the area.

The Bolton News: Winter Hill moorland fire

“We’re now able to further reduce the amount of resources involved while still providing round-the-clock protection.

“However, there is significant work ahead to bring the incident to an end. Our drone allows us to identify hot spots in the peat underground using thermal imaging and there are still areas burning beneath the surface.

“Although we’ve had some rain which helps to douse the land, firefighters will remain at the site until we can be more certain there is no further risk of fire.

“This involves monitoring the moorland for pockets of fire, damping hot areas down and maintaining control lines to prevent any fire from spreading.”

The number of fire engines at the scene has been reduced to six during peak hours.

A number of roads which were closed after the fire broke out have also been reopened.

The Bolton News: Winter Hill fire.

They include Belmont Road and Scout Road, which were both shut almost three weeks ago so emergency services could tackle the huge moorland inferno.

However, public footpaths in the area remain closed while firefighters continue to work in the area.

The has been greeted with relief by many members of the community who have been affected by the incident.

This includes the owners of Horrocks Moor Farm in Scout Road, which is where the second fire ignited before it merged with the first near the TV mast, causing the major incident.

Sandra Westhead lives at the farm with her partner Adrian Painter and her children Lydia and Thomas, aged 21 and 19 respectively.

She said: “They have taken the road blocks out and so they are now open. We are relieved really.

“It has been a bit of a nuisance but I think we are going to have to be vigilant. I think it could happen again, especially now that after this rain we are forecast another six weeks of dry weather.

“There’s a hosepipe ban coming in so it is still worrying.”

The Bolton News: Adrian Painter at Horrocks Moor FarmAdrian Painter at Horrocks Moor Farm

Jayne Tolen, aged 57, owns the Rivington Village Green Tea Room in Sheep House Lane and on the first weekend of the fire, the business lost about £1,500.

She said: “I was so pleased to see rain overnight. It was unbelievable.

“It has been difficult for us but we haven’t had to close but at some points there has not been anybody around.

“This side of Rivington has not been badly affected. It is the other end around Scout Road.

“But obviously for two and a half weeks people have been told to keep away because of the danger and then we had the Ironman being rerouted.

“We have been talking to the firefighters and they are exhausted. So thanks to all of them. Now we want to get the word around that the paths around us are now open and people can get to us.”

Rivington Foundation Primary School in Horrobin Lane were evacuated and pupils were moved to Albany Academy.

But they were able to move back on Monday.

The Bolton News: Drone footage of the Winter Hill moorland fire

Headteacher Sarah Annette said: “We are just thrilled to be back at school particularly with it being the last week of term.

“Albany Academy has been fantastic. They have bent over backwards for us. But there is nothing like being at home.

“Our year six pupils were about to leave the school and we have a tradition where they all walk down the stairs and have a church service. We had made alternative plans but it would not have been the same for them. There was still a smell in the air when we came back. I’m sure that will last a few weeks.

“The firefighters have been working so hard to keep us safe in pretty horrendous conditions. We can not thank them enough.”

Deputy leader of Bolton Council Cllr Ebrahim Adia, revealed that roads on the Bolton side of the fire were reopened yesterday.

He said: “A huge thank you to firefighters and partners who have been working tirelessly, day and night on what has been a hugely complex operation.

“We are all truly grateful for their hard work and we also want to thank all of the organisations and volunteers who have helped to protect the moorland.

“We have been working closely with the fire service to offer support and help, and a number of our staff worked throughout the night when the fire broke almost three weeks ago to help crews bring the fire under control.

“Roads are now reopen around Winter Hill, although footpaths are still closed. We ask people to exercise caution when using the roads as the fire service are still working in the area, and to still stay off the moors until it is declared safe.”