UK cities need to prepare for future wildfires, say fire chiefs | UK weather

Fire chiefs have warned that cities in the UK need to prepare for wildfires after dozens of “unprecedented” blazes broke out during last week’s record-breaking temperatures.

Temperatures reached 40C (104F) across England last Tuesday in a heatwave that dried out green spaces, triggering wildfires that destroyed more than 40 houses and shops.

The National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) tactical adviser, David Swallow, told the BBC that “services need to recognise the risk they’ve now got”.

“If they don’t, then they’re naive,” he said. “There are very urban services that think that wildfires are low down on the risk list. I understand the need to prioritise resources, but there needs to be a review.”

According to the NFCC, this year alone England and Wales have had 442 wildfires – which compares with 247 last year. This is, in part, due to climate factors, so fire safety advice should be followed not only during the heatwave, but throughout the year, the NFCC said.

The head of the London fire brigade, Andy Roe, said fires in the capital last week were unprecedented: “I saw stuff this week that I had not expected to see as a London firefighter.”

The fire service saw its busiest day since the second world war as a result of the extreme temperatures, with crews attending 1,146 incidents in a single day.

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Asked about the experience of the capital’s fire services over the course of the week, Roe said: “I think the word I’d use is unprecedented. I’ve had a long operational career at some of the most significant incidents that London has seen in the past couple of decades but even with all that experience I saw stuff this week that I had not expected to see as a London firefighter.”

Sixteen homes were lost in the large fire in Wennington, east London, and fire crews had to fight to save the fire station itself, located nearby, from the flames.

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