England suffered 24,000 wildfires in record summer heatwave… as experts warn of further mayhem as climate intensifies

  • Some forces dealt with more than 50 wildfires a day in heatwaves last summer 
  • Met Office said this week that 2022 will be the UK’s warmest year on record
  • Staff face ‘new extremes of weather as our climate changes’, fire chiefs said 

Fire services in England tackled nearly 25,000 wildfires last summer, almost four times as many as last year, figures show.

Some forces dealt with more than 50 a day in heatwaves during which temperatures hit a record 40C on July 19.

Fire chiefs said staff were ‘increasingly being challenged by new extremes of weather as our climate changes’.

At least 24,316 wildfires were recorded from June to August, according to data obtained by the PA news agency via freedom of information requests.

Fire services tackled almost four times as many wildfires last summer as they did the year before

This was up from 6,213 in the same period in 2021, and two and a half times the 9,369 in 2020. This year England had the driest July since 1935 and the joint warmest summer on record.

The parched environment saw a surge in wildfires, particularly on July 19 and 20, when major blazes were reported in places such as Clayton and Barnsley in South Yorkshire, Ashmanhaugh in Norfolk, Hankley Common in Surrey and the Dartford Marshes in Kent.

One of the most devastating fires hit Wennington in east London on July 19, which destroyed two rows of terraced houses, four other homes, outbuildings, garages, stables and cars and affected 40 hectares of grassland.

Another spell of blistering heat in mid-August saw wildfires in locations as far apart as Yorkshire, Northamptonshire, Dorset, Essex and Devon.

One of the most devastating wildfires was in Wennington in east London on July 19 which destroyed homes, garages and cars

The run of heatwaves, along with above-average temperatures in every month except December, means 2022 will be the UK’s warmest year on record, the Met Office said earlier this week.

In London, firefighters tackled 2,639 wildfires from June to August, nearly five times the number for summer 2021 and almost twice the figure for 2020, including 70 on August 12 and 79 on August 13.

A London Fire Brigade spokesperson said: ‘Firefighters across London worked in very difficult conditions to protect Londoners during the intense heatwave this summer and their heroic actions meant no lives were lost.

‘The grass fires are an example of how we are increasingly being challenged by new extremes of weather as our climate changes. We must adapt to this change and are constantly looking at developing our equipment and procedures to meet all the new challenges that we face.’

Other fire services that saw high spikes in daily wildfires include West Yorkshire, which recorded 68 on July 18 and 65 on July 19; Tyne & Wear, with 57 on August 11; and South Yorkshire with 55 on July 20.

Cleveland Fire Brigade recorded 1,134 wildfires this summer, more than six times the number in both 2020 and 2021.

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