A heatwave is predicted to start today (Thursday) and last for at least the next four days right across in England and Wales. It could see temperatures climb to the mid 30 degrees Celsius by the end of the week.
There is no indication this will reach the peaks it did three weeks ago on Tuesday, July 19, but West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service (WYFRS) is making sure it is prepared.
The service is urging residents not to light fires, and refrain from using barbecues during the heatwave, as this increases the risks of wildfires locally. People are also being asked to resist using disposable barbecues in open areas, given the damage they are known to cause in dry weather.
The lack of rainfall has also seen local waterways, including reservoirs, start to dry up, which may lead to a UK-wide hosepipe ban by the end of the month.
Dave Walton, Deputy Chief Fire Officer for WYFRS, said: “Once a wildfire starts, with the best will in world, it won’t stop and will take hold faster than people can run.
“While we might not see a return of the peaks of previous heatwave, we are expecting some quite high temperatures over a sustained period. The current dry conditions and the ground heat as a result, make it the perfect conditions once again for wildfires to erupt.
“The longer the hot weather and dry conditions run, coupled with low humidity rates, this really raises the risks for wildfire. This is exactly what happens on the continent and so we need to all play our part over the next few days to prevent fires taking hold.
“We are asking our communities to be responsible and not light fires while the conditions remain as they are. Residents have largely been heeding this advice and we urge them to continue to do so.”
He added while the service was well prepared for what came last time, it was the quantity of fires at once which stretched crews.
“We have already doubled the number of wildfires attended this year compared to last and we are only half-way through the year, so we know we are in for a testing few weeks,” added the DCFO.
“We have specialist equipment for fighting wildfires and we are increasing our resource in terms of 999 control room and crewing engines, especially towards the weekend as we see temperatures rise.
“Our messaging is also being ramped up as we ask people to take responsibility. The fields, crops and grasslands are still tinderbox dry and will go up with little aggravation. A hot barbecue on the ground can start a fire on its own as can a carelessly thrown cigarette or broken glass.
“Our communities, I am sure, will take the lead to not let what happened last month happen here again. If you light flames in these conditions, however careful you might be, you are increasing the risk of a wildfire starting.”
DCFO Walton has been in demand from dozens of well-known media outlets locally, nationally, and even internationally, after he warned the wildfires which gripped the country three weeks ago were a wake-up call about climate change.
“This was not a one off,” he said. “As firefighters we have been saying things are changing and now is the time for us to collectively take action.
“I have been in the fire service for 37 years and there are always changes to deal with. In the 80s and 90s there were far more house fires, and now this is at an all time low due to the changes made by society together. We can do this again, so we can protect our lands, homes and most importantly people.
“While we are seeing this first-hand as firefighters, this is not about us as a service, it is about taking steps to ensure we all change our behaviour to protect us all.”
Countryside Safety Advice
Barbecues are banned on open moorland because they increase wildfire risk. Here’s WYFRS advice on being responsible in current climates:
- Please don’t have barbecues or campfires in the countryside, or on any grassland during this very dry weather.
- If you’re a smoker, please take extreme care with how you put out your cigarettes and dispose of them.
- Don’t leave litter and pick it up if you see it. Don’t leave it to someone else. Discarded litter, in particular glass bottles, pose a fire risk when the sun’s rays are magnified through it.
- Avoid having bonfires at all.
Video Credit: Dublin Fire Brigade and Ambulance Service.