Peat’s Problem as fires in Saddleworth persist

The fires on Saddleworth Moor near Manchester are refusing to quell despite the valiant efforts of firefighters. The fires took hold around 10 days ago and steps were taken to get them under control. But these blazes have problems of their own. In these days of unprecedented dry and hot weather the moorland has become an arid landscape of parched grass and bushes, and these coupled with the windy conditions have made a fire from a spark almost inevitable.

Firefighters have had a punishing workload working in shifts of over 17 hours each. Appeals have gone out for support from the public in the form of donations of sun-cream, energy food and most importantly a constant supply of bottled drinking water to keep the fire-fighting mission from collapse.

The peat-based terrain is also a challenge for this moorland fire. Peat is made up of decayed vegetation and other organic matter, and is very valuable to the ecology of the moorland. Not only that, peat is used as a source of fuel for warmth, it burns very well in the grate. And that’s a problem for this particular fire. The peat burns very well. A wild peat fire can look like nothing else in that the only indication there is a fire is the cloud of smoke emanating from the ground. If you look around the edges you might witness a bright red line, something like a row of bloody teeth biting into the earth, this is the edge of the fire where there is oxygen aplenty, the fire is really underneath, and this is very difficult to put out and takes a lot of physical effort. Beating it out is exhausting. A massive rainfall is prayed for, but in the meantime, firefighters continue to toil day and night to keep the fire under control.

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