The army may be needed to battle the huge fire on Saddleworth Moor after fire crews fought in vain to stop it from spreading.
The massive blaze - the biggest moorland fire many people can ever remember - has destroyed 2,000 acres of the moor and has crept so close to homes that people have been evacuated.
Overnight the inferno reached within 200 metres of homes in Stalybridge and residents living there say it is like Pompeii with ash raining down on their properties.
The fire was declared a major incident at 10.40pm last night by Greater Manchester Police, who said it was ‘one of the biggest in living memory’.
The homes evacuated were on Calico Crescent in Carrbrook in Stalybridge where firefighters and police were present last night with the blaze just 200 metres from properties.
A Greater Manchester Fire Service spokesman said the fire had spread as the wind picked up in dry, extremely hot conditions.
The force tweeted: “We are in contact with the army and they are on standby to help if we need them. Right now support is being given from Cheshire Fire and Derbyshire Fire.”
Coughing as she spoke on the phone, Carrbrook resident Dee Blanchard, 28, said: “It’s getting a bit frightening. We’ve got double glazing but we’ve had to put damp towels around their windows and doors.
“You can’t go outside, you can barely see. The firefighters are trying to connect hoses to hoses because there’s no access point near them.
“There’s a fireman in a white hat who I think is in charge and he said we might have to evacuate.
“People are going door-to-door collecting pets.”
Dee, a former military police officer who served in Afghanistan and Iraq, admitted she’s now starting to get nervous.
She said: “If they can’t put it out I don’t know what’s going to happen. Last night it was so much further away. I couldn’t sleep and I left my window open and I didn’t realise at first why I was coughing and my eyes were sore.
“We can literally hear it crackling outside - it’s that sound like a bonfire.”
Power was also cut off for a short time as firefighters used an estimated 65,000 gallons of water to douse the flames.
St James Church Hall on Huddersfield Road was opened for anyone who needed it.
Smoke has thinned this morning and the flames which came within a few metres of homes have died down.
Dave McDonald said: “It’s like being in Pompeii!
“All the garden furniture and cars are covered in ash. It was falling down like snow.
“The fire is literally on the other side of the hill from our house, about 500 or 600 metres.
“It’s crazy - it’s like really thick fog. My daughter came home from work and had to wrap her cardigan around her face.
“We’ve been round to neighbours who are elderly to make sure they’ve got all their windows and doors closed and have everything they need so they don’t need to go out.
“We made the mistake of leaving a car window open earlier and the inside was covered in ash.
“The house stinks of the burning smell that’s everywhere.”