A Bolton firefighter has spoken of the "absolute nightmare" on the holiday island of Rhodes which has been hit by wildlife fires, forcing tourists to evacuate their hotels.

Daniel Vickers, 41, a firefighter at Bolton North Fire Station, wife Claire and children Joseph and Annabelle arrived back to Manchester on Monday evening on an emergency flight after spending most of their holiday protected away from the wildfires.

The family of four from Westhoughton flew out to Rhodes on Wednesday, July 19, in the hopes of spending 10 glorious days in the sunshine but the trip was cut short after wildfires began to spread on the Greek island, with evacuation alerts being sent.

Daniel said the holiday in the resort of Pefkos started off well, with a day in the pool, but as the weekend approached their situation changed rapidly as they had to evacuate their hotel to a school in the north of the island.

Daniel said: “We flew out last Wednesday, July 19, and we initially booked 10 days to go out there and the first day was OK, in the afternoon we enjoyed the pool and then we went out for tea, and everything seemed fine.

“But on the following day, the Thursday, we woke up and there was just a lot of smoke in the air which we thought was a bit strange and then we started seeing the news and what was going on.

The Bolton News: The smoke near the hotelThe smoke near the hotel (Image: Daniel Vickers)

“I am a firefighter so when I saw the news, I thought this isn’t good this, this is going to cause some serious problems even in the early stages.

“For the next day or two, the wind kept changing direction, so the smoke kept coming and going really but then the Saturday was the worst day, there was evacuation messages coming through to us but telling people if you are in this certain area you need to evacuate.

“But at that point it didn’t necessarily affect us so we just carried on as best we could with our holiday and then on Saturday evening we went out for tea in Lindos and ash was just falling in our food and drinks.

"We went back to our apartment and just as we were going to bed and it was about midnight, we received an alert message stating we needed to leave Pefkos.

“This was only day three of our holiday and when we got that message at midnight there were alarms going off, the power had been going on and off, there was no running water.

“I went to check on my wife and my daughter, who were staying in a separate room and they were a bit shaken up, and worried about what was going on."

He added: “I then went into the reception area to find out what was happening as we needed to evacuate, and it was just chaos.

“People were crying, a lot of children were upset and people were panicking and scared and people were just grabbing their bags and started to run down the road. Fortunately I was able to stop them and say look if the fire is on its way here the last place you need to be is on a road because if you get overcome with smoke or fire you have got nowhere to go.

“I managed to calm a lot of people down and tell them to sit tight and I worked with the hotel staff to organise transfers and coaches to get us to where we needed to go.

The Bolton News: The fire in the hillsThe fire in the hills (Image: Daniel Vickers)

“After a couple of hours, we were then taken to a school, north of Rhodes and we spent two days there.

“We got there about 3am and my children just had to sleep on the floor, there were no reps there, we booked with TUI and there was no reps or information, and all I can say is thank God for the Greek people because they were just incredible.

“Straight away they were bringing us water, fresh fruit, food, and they were just bringing us anything they could to help us.

“Even when the reps turned up on the Sunday morning, they still didn’t have any information and I felt sorry for them because they were bombarded by people who were angry and frustrated and being asked a load of questions.

“We then thought well we're not going to go back to the apartments, we need to get out of here, we need to try and book a flight.

“We initially booked a flight with Jet2 to take us home on the Monday evening and we managed to get tickets somehow and we told people about it, and they followed suit, but they just couldn’t get tickets.

“We had to stay another night, all day Sunday and then another night in the school and it was just bad, there was no air conditioning, the toilets wouldn’t flush, there was no shower facilities, and the heat was unbelievable, it was so hot and so noisy.

“It was just quite a scary place to be really, even myself being in a lot of dangerous situations with my job, I was just sat there and thought what am I doing, I was just powerless to do anything and its not so bad to be in a situation like that when you’re on your own but when you are with your family it’s a completely different experience.

The Bolton News: Inside the schoolInside the school (Image: Daniel Vickers)

“You just felt powerless to help your children and help your family and it was very difficult.

“On the Monday morning, we packed our bags and just sat outside, and we knew we had tickets then to go home at midnight.

“But then a TUI rep had turned up and said they had some emergency flights come in to go back Manchester and asked us if we wanted them and we straight away said yes.

“We got on this flight and landed on Monday evening at Manchester and since then it has been a whirlwind of emotions really.”

Daniel said they were supposed to celebrate Annabelle’s birthday on July 26, while away but they celebrated in Liverpool instead.

“It is my daughter’s birthday today and she is 12, so we should have been celebrating her birthday on the beach,” he said.

“It should have an enjoyable time for us but instead it has been an absolute nightmare, we are glad to be home, but we feel we have been robbed of a holiday, the kids should have been having the time of their lives, but it has been taken away from them.”

The Bolton News: Sleeping on the floorSleeping on the floor (Image: Daniel Vickers)

Daniel said he is also slightly angry with TUI as there should be contingency plans in place, and he hopes lessons can be learnt.

He said: “Yes, we are slightly angry at TUI in the fact that there are no contingency plans put in place.

“Everyone knows what the situation is whether it is global warming or whatever the cause may be, but everyone knows the temperatures are getting warmer, these countries are getting hotter, and I just hope moving forward TUI look, and not just TUI but other travel companies, look at contingency measures and put everything in place ready so if this happens again, we are ready.

“I just hope lessons can be learnt from it.”

A TUI UK and Ireland spokesperson said: “We understand how distressing and difficult it’s been for those who had to leave their hotels and curtail their holidays due to the wildfires in Rhodes.

“Our teams have worked round the clock to offer support and we brought in many additional reps to help assist as soon as the situation escalated.

“They’ve done their utmost in challenging and difficult situations, collaborating with the local authorities who managed the immediate evacuation.

“We relocated impacted customers in new hotels as soon as we could and have brought hundreds of people home.

“Many more will be travelling back to the UK on flights today and our teams will be in touch with everyone who is impacted on their return.”

TUI had carried out five repatriation flights by Tuesday morning, July 25, and has cancelled all flights to Rhodes up to and including Friday, with holidays scrapped for those going to affected hotels before and on Sunday.

If you have a story or something you would like to highlight in the community, please email me at chloe.wilson@newsquest.co.uk or DM me on Twitter @chloewjourno.