Grass fire warning as heatwave continues

Enfield has barely had any rain since June, reports James Cracknell

A man watches a grass fire
credit Adam Wilson via Unsplash

Londoners are being urged to take action during the ongoing heatwave as new data shows an unprecedented increase in grass fires.

“Tinder dry” conditions mean there is an “exceptional” fire risk across London during the heatwave – and what may soon be classified as drought conditions.

London Fire Brigade (LFB) has tackled 340 grass, rubbish and open land fires in the first week of August, compared with 42 fires in same week last year – more than eight times as many.

Firefighters have already tackled one large grass fire in Enfield this week. Ten fire engines and around 70 firefighters were called on Tuesday afternoon to a grass fire near Mollison Avenue in Brimsdown. Around five hectares of grass and shrubland were damaged by the fire, but there were no reports of any injuries.

An LFB spokesperson said: “High temperatures are forecast this week and the ground is extremely dry.

“We’re urging people to take extra care and help us prevent fires on open land this summer.

“Make sure rubbish, especially glass, is safely thrown away and cigarettes are always properly disposed of.

“Grass will be tinder dry after periods of hot weather, so please don’t have barbecues in parks and public spaces.”

There were also two serious grass fires in Enfield in July, on the same weekend, shortly following that month’s record-breaking temperatures.

A Met Office amber warning for extreme heat in the south-east of England came into force today and lasts until Sunday. A lack of rainfall in July and August means grass is extremely dry and the Met Office’s fire severity index shows an exceptional risk in London.

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In recent weeks, the number of calls that LFB’s control room officers have taken has also significantly increased. Between 18th July and 7th August this year, 18,603 calls were taken, compared with 12,102 calls in the same period last year.

LFB’s assistant commissioner Jonathan Smith said: “This summer has seen an unprecedented long, dry spell with high temperatures so the grass in London is tinderbox dry and the smallest of sparks can start a blaze which could cause devastation.

“Despite our continued warning over the last few weeks, we know there are still people who are barbecuing in parks, dropping cigarettes out of car windows and leaving rubbish lying around.

“We really need to prevent a repeat of the situation we saw on 19th July, when homes, shops, garages, outbuildings and vehicles were destroyed across London in a number of significant fires.

“So please – we are asking Londoners to help us protect the city we all love by doing everything you can to prevent further grass fires. Please don’t barbecue in open spaces or balconies, throw your rubbish away safely and put your cigarettes out properly.”

Earlier this week, Thames Water announced it intends to introduce a hosepipe ban in the coming weeks. LFB is also asking people to be careful with their use of water to support our work tackling fires later this summer.

Help prevent grass fires:

  • Don’t drop cigarettes or anything that is burning on dry ground;
  • Don’t drop cigarettes out of car windows – they may land on dry grass by the roadside;
  • Don’t have barbecues in parks and public spaces;
  • Do not barbecue on balconies, the wind may carry smouldering ash towards nearby grassland;
  • Be aware that children, animals, balls or anything else may knock over barbecues, increasing the risk of grass fires, especially when in a busy parks or public spaces.

Update (12/08):

A drought has today been declared in eight areas of the UK, including North London.

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