THOUSANDS of people hiked up the wooded trails of Rivington on Saturday to be part of a special thank you concert for the Winter Hill fire crews

The Big Thank You concert in Rivington Terraced Gardens was a show of gratitude to the hundreds of firefighters and volunteers who battled the moorland blaze on Winter Hill this summer.

Firefighters were praised for their heroic efforts over the four weeks from Thursday, June 28 to Wednesday, August 8, when Winter Hill was ablaze.

The picturesque lawn, close to the summit of Rivington Pike, had a feel-good festival atmosphere with live music, beer and cocktails, foodie stalls and amusements, creating a summer party vibe.

The lawn, surrounded by woods, was spared the devastation of the fire, thanks to the tireless efforts of fire crews from Lancashire and Greater Manchester.

Seven square miles of moorland was destroyed in the month-long wildfire, but fire crews and volunteers helped save homes and vital infrastructure from the blaze.

Those involved in the emergency efforts were given free tickets to the event, with free beer and food as a token of the community’s appreciation.

The Bolton News:

Watch manager Ian Read (left) with fellow firefighters from the Bolton Central crew.

Ian Read is the wildfire officer and watch maanger at Bolton Central fire station.

He worked 14-hour shifts to help combat the fire, and watched as the flames crept within metres of his own home in Belmont.

He said: “It’s great to see that everyone appreciates what we do.

“The community really rallied together and supported us, and we appreciate their efforts too.

“We never went hungry once. We were well-fed with local businesses delivering food and water and other agencies, such as Bolton Council and the police, helping with logistics.”

“It was exhausting, and after three weeks of the heatwave, we were praying for rain.

“I remember coming home from a double shift and seeing the moors across from our home on fire. There was no escaping it.”

The event has already raised more than £12,000, and organisers are donating all the money to the firefighters who tackled Winter Hill’s biggest wildfire in decades.

The Bolton News:

Over 1,000 people attended the event in honour of the firefighters and volunteers who battled the month-long wildfire.

Andrew Sutter, heritage projects manager for Rivington Heritage Trust, said: “A number of our volunteers said we should do something to thank all of those involved.

“Originally it was going to be a barbecue. We put it out on Facebook and it just went ridiculous.

“The response has been amazing.

“If the firefighters had not been there then we would have lost the gardens and there is a lot of stuff in there that is irreplaceable.

“The response from the public has been overwhelming. It has been incredible.”

Volunteers with Bolton Mountain Rescue were also invited to the event as special guests, in recognition of their efforts in fighting the fire.

This year was the 50th anniversary of the formation of Bolton Mountain Rescue and the volunteers used their expert local knowledge of the moors to help fire crews co-ordinate operations on the boggy moorland.

The Bolton News:

Steve and Elaine, volunteers with Bolton Mountain Rescue, were part of the emergency response efforts on Winter Hill

Steve Fletcher, team leader with Bolton Mountain Rescue, said: “We have 40 volunteers, with full time jobs and families, but we managed to keep 12 volunteers up here at a time, around the clock.

“In our 50 years, this is the biggest emergency we have been a part of, but we managed our resources efficiently.

"We worked out that the cost of having 12 fully-trained volunteers stationed on Winter Hill, around the clock, cost a total of just £83 a day.

"Not bad value for money, when you think about it. We rely completely on donations from the public and we were fortunate that we'd just equipped our teams with new walkie-talkies, just weeks before the wildfire.

"The new walkie-talkies proved vital for liasing with fire crews, as our team worked as spotters all over Winter Hill.

"Our four-wheel drives suffered £1,700 worth of damage, due to their heavy use on a daily basis.

The Bolton News:

The event had a festival feel, with people of all ages enjoying the entertainment.

"But we have seen some very generous donations made by people here today, who recognise and appreciate the role we played.

"People sometimes don't expect Bolton to need a Mountain Rescue team, compared with the Lake District and Peak District.

"But we have a lot of wild moorland around Bolton and the Winter Hill fire showed that wildfires can spread anywhere." 

More than 2,000 people were expected to attend the event, which ran from 2pm to 10.30pm.