THERE were only three fire engines to cover the whole of Greater Manchester last night as the service is stretched thin by the Saddleworth Moor fire.

An exhausted watch manager, Ian Read, was coming off his shift and described crews as being "battered" by the efforts to tackle the raging inferno.

Mr Read, who works from Bolton Station said his crew had been up at Saddleworth Moor from 7pm when they came on to about 1am this morning when another crew relieved them.

He said: "We didn't touch the station until 1am and the second has been out all night carrying on going. Then we were on relief duty all over the place.

"It's mental. In the whole of the brigade last night there was only three fire engines available.

"They were battered non-stop last night."

Mr Read again pleaded with the public to be sensible when out on the moors to avoid incidents like the one in Saddleworth, which has so far led to around 30 houses being evacuated and covers an area of over 6km.

He also urged people to only call when absolutely necessary because of how stretched the services are at the moment.

Mr Read said that many people had been calling with reports of smoke in the air and another had called because their neighbour was using a brazier.

He urged people not just to call because they could see smoke, there have been reports of smoke from the Saddleworth fire drifting over Bolton this morning.

Mr Read said: "If you see flames or something on fire then phone us."

Images shared on social media this morning from NASA show smoke from the fires can be seen from space.

Leon Parkers, assistant chief fire officer, said: "This fire is particularly large. We've got lots of experience with dealing with moor fires.

"But this particular incident is vast - it's presented some real challenges to the fire and rescue service in terms of access, the conditions for firefighters, and obviously the wind encourages the fire to spread.

"We've been dealing with an escalating incident and we are trying to get on top of it now."