PEOPLE in Darwen are set to stage a communal clap on Thursday to applaud the efforts of those braving intense conditions to keep flames from the Darwen Moor fire away from the town.

Fire crews, mountain rescue teams and workers from United Utilities have also been overwhelmed with gifts of food and other essential items since the fire started on Saturday.

United Utilities’ local catchment manager Matt Upton, who lives in Darwen, said everyone had been very touched by the support they had received: “All of us are working in very hot, difficult conditions, but we are all focussed on containing the fire and stopping it from spreading.

"It really could not be more appreciated. These are very long days and it’s nice to know people are thinking of us.

"People are dropping off all sorts of things. We have had donations of food, plus water, wet wipes, sun cream and cakes. It’s been overwhelming.

“I live in Darwen and I have seen on local Facebook groups and other places that people are planning to do a clap for everyone tonight, like the ones people have been doing throughout the lockdown.

"I think I speak for everyone when I say it means a lot to us, especially at the moment.”

Crews battling the blaze finally managed to get it under control by 8am on Tuesday.

Firefighters spent the majority of yesterday damping down hot spots to ensure further spread could be prevented, after spending more than two days tackling the flames.

At its height, more than 50 firefighters and ten fire engines, including specialist appliances, were on the moors fighting the fire, but despite the incident coming to a close, the aftermath is only just beginning.

Numerous wildlife species have been devastated as the flames ripped through their habitats during nesting season.

The Wildlife Trust said they received hundreds of messages from angry and upset nature lovers as the fires caused severe damage to large hectares of moorland.

And campaigns officer Alan Wright has blasted the people who caused the fires.

Mr Wright said: “So the lockdown is eased and suddenly people think it’s a great idea to take a barbecue onto the moors, which are tinder dry after weeks of no rain.

"They leave it and it damages a vitally important area for wildlife.

"I think irresponsible is too kind. Instead of pouring water onto the barbecue and taking away their litter, they selfishly leave it for someone else to clear up.

"Many thousands of creatures will have died in these fires over the weekend.

"Fledglings will have died panicking running for safety but having nowhere safe to go.

“The West Pennine Moors are a site of special scientific interest because of the rare and wonderful wildlife you find there."

The fire on Darwen Moor has destroyed a replanting programme for dwarf cornel and heather, and ground nesting birds, among the heather, like curlew, snipe and ring ouzel, will have suffered losses and well as small mammals, voles, mice and possibly foxes and hares.

Farmers may also have lost sheep in the blaze.

Mr Wright added: “Over the past few days I have noticed an increase in litter and now the fires have started again.

"Surely it’s not difficult to tidy up after yourself or to make sure you aren’t leaving something that can potentially start a fire.

“Of course, we also get people who start these fires on purpose and I have no words to describe those people."

Meanwhile the fire service has released numerous pleas not to light fires or use disposable barbecues out in the open, especially on moors and in woodland areas, which have been reiterated by the police.

Inspector Helen Dixon said: “Safety at this time of year is vital, and we want to be clear that we will investigate if we believe fires have been started deliberately.

"We’d urge people to heed the fire service's messages and spare a thought for the people who live near the affected areas and also the firefighters who are working round the clock to tackle these blazes.

"Please never set campfires or use disposal barbecues outside – the risks at this time of year are just too great and it only takes one stray spark to cause a huge fire."