A WIGAN-born firefighter’s rescue dog was at the heart of a search for bodies at the site of an explosion in Oldham.
Echo, who is a search and rescue dog for Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service, was first on the scene following the huge blast which killed a toddler in Shaw on Tuesday.
After the alarm was raised Echo’s trainer, Mike Dewar, who began his career in Wigan, rushed to the scene shortly before 11am to give the team at the scene the best possible chance of finding anybody who might be trapped.
Mike, who is a watch manager, said: “We were straight on the scene and it was quite dangerous for Echo.
“He was the first canine at the incident and he was put straight to work looking for any signs of life. The terrain was quite difficult in amongst the rubble and he pulled a muscle in one of his hind legs.
“We were there till around 10pm on Tuesday night so it was a long shift for Echo but he performed wonderfully.
“He was later joined by dogs from West Yorkshire and Lancashire, too, but it didn’t look like anybody else was trapped.”
Echo is the Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) dog and his job is to search for people who have been trapped in a building as a result of an explosion or an earthquake.
He has also helped with search and rescue operations abroad, including Haiti in 2010.Police are still investigating the death of two-year-old, named locally as Jamie Heaton, which they are treating as suspicious.
The explosion in Buckley Street, Shaw, also left a 27-year-old man in hospital with burns.
Residents at up to 100 properties in the area were evacuated to a nearby school and a relief fund has been set up to help those affected.
It is not thought the injured man, who was dragged out of the rubble, is related to the child who died.
House numbers nine and 11 were destroyed in Tuesday morning’s explosion and several other houses were also damaged.