Fire hits Uppermill Graveyard
Monday 9th July 2018 @ 14:36 by Lee Wild
Mossley & Saddleworth News

A full scale police investigation has been launched in the aftermath of a fire at a community’s iconic graveyard.

Flames  tore through St Chads graveyard on Saturday night, after a farmer spotted  smoke rising from the site at the Church Road-Gellfield Lane, Uppermill.

Last month a fire which started in the 18th century graveyard was quickly extinguished  but Saturday’s  blaze spread across three areas before finally being doused.

The Church of England’s spiritual leader, Rev Canon Sharon Jones, team rector for Saddleworth, said: “ We are sad and concerned regarding the graveyard fires at St Chads. 

“The place is precious to so many and is significant in the story of the Saddleworth community. The gravestones themselves are largely undamaged. The grass will of course grow back. 

“Meanwhile, police are actively investigating the suspected causes.”

Cllr Robert Knotts, chair of Saddleworth Parish Council, said:” Departed loved ones merit total respect in their final resting places.

“Anyone setting fire to such hallowed ground rejects the humanitarian principles of honour, decency and respect.”

Julian Taylor, landlord if the nearby Church Inn, who raced to the scene, said: “There was clouds of thick smoke and the fire seemed to be coming from three separate sources.

“Some of the lead on the old gravestones inscriptions had melted in  the intense heat,” he said. “The fires are deeply upsetting because so many folk have family, relatives and friends buried here going back years.”

And locals took to social  media to express their frustration  and upset over the fires.

One woman whose father is buried at the graveyard, posted: “Consider what you are doing to communities, habitats, final resting places of loved ones.

“And think of  impact on the health and  welfare of  families of the brave men and women fighting these fires, day after day on the longest shifts.”

A GMP spokesman, urging  the public to stay vigilant,  said police resources had been stepped up in the area.

He added: “ There has been a great deal of speculation across social media and at this time police cannot rule out foul play.

“Starting fires is a serious offence called arson and can carry a prison sentence of up to 14 years  in certain circumstances. 

“The cemetery is the final resting place for many of Saddleworth families loved ones and to think that someone could have possibly started a fire in  the grounds with the current tinder dry conditions is not only criminal but also reckless in the extreme.”

Meanwhile rescue teams had to de deployed to another blaze over the weekend which ripped through moorland near Readycon Dean Reservoir in Denshaw.

The team supported and assisted the fire service backed by friends and colleagues from Holme Valley Mountain Rescue Team.

An OMRT spokesperson said: “It really has been a collaborative effort from all arms of the emergency services including help from as far away as Kent Fire and Rescue Service who are up here helping with the fires – thank you all.”