London Fire Brigade had busiest day since World War Two, says London mayoron July 20, 2022 at 9:16 am

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Fifteen areas across the UK declared major incidents as wildfires broke out after unprecedented heat.

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Fire crews have worked through the night damping down wildfires which broke out following Tuesday’s record-breaking temperatures in the UK.

In Wennington, east London, around 100 firefighters tackled a blaze which began in grassland before spreading to nearby homes.

Several brigades declared major incidents due to the number of 999 calls they were receiving.

Tuesday saw a record temperature of 40.3C in Coningsby, Lincolnshire.

Thirty-three other locations saw highs that surpassed the previous record of 38.7C.

Temperatures are lower on Wednesday, but the Met Office has issued a yellow warning for heavy showers and thunderstorms which could bring disruption in eastern and south-east England this afternoon.

The weather is also continuing to affect transport. Network Rail said on Wednesday there were no direct trains between London and Scotland, due to damage to overhead electric lines on the West Coast mainline.

Major incidents were declared by London Fire Brigade as well as fire services in Leicestershire, Hertfordshire, Suffolk, Norfolk, Lincolnshire and Yorkshire.

In Barnsley a blaze damaged a row of houses, and in Rotherham a grass fire is reported to have spread to eight homes.

LFB said two rows of terraced houses, four other homes, 12 stables and five cars were destroyed by the blaze in Wennington, while one firefighter at the scene described it as “absolute hell”.

Dramatic images from the scene showed smoke billowing from a number of buildings, some with their roofs collapsed, and extensive damage to the surrounding land.

‘My house is completely gone’

Tim Stock, who alerted the fire brigade and whose own house was destroyed in the blaze, told BBC Radio 5 Live he and his son had spotted the fire in his neighbour’s garden but, despite their best efforts with a hose and watering can, had been unable to stop it spreading.

“I reckon about 15-20 houses might be gone or uninhabitable,” he said.

“My house is completely gone, as is the next door neighbour’s and three or four other houses along that bit.”

Speaking to the BBC’s Radio 4 Today programme, London Mayor Sadiq Khan described Tuesday as the busiest day for the capital’s fire service since World War Two.

He said London Fire Brigade (LFB) received 2,600 calls and one fire had required 30 fire engines to attend.

“Yesterday there were more than a dozen fires at the same time… so it was incredibly busy day yesterday”.

He has advised Londoners not to have BBQs in parks or private gardens due to concerns about the risk of grass setting alight.

Firefighters in South Yorkshire tackled a blaze which began in scrubland at Maltby before spreading to outbuildings, fences and homes

Image source, South Yorkshire Fire/Twitter/PA Media

Mark Hardingham, chair of the National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC), described “stretched” fire services across the UK dealing with an “unprecedented level of wildfires”.

He told the BBC: “I’ve been in the fire service for over 30 years now and yesterday was just about the busiest I’ve ever seen the fire and rescue service in that time.

“The images that we saw yesterday remind me of what I’ve seen in California, Australia and southern Europe in recent years, and not so much in the UK.”

Heatwaves have become more frequent, more intense, and last longer because of human-induced climate change, and that hot, dry weather is likely to fuel wildfires.

The world has already warmed by about 1.1C since the industrial era began and temperatures will keep rising unless governments around the world make steep cuts to emissions.

Firefighters in Wennington, London

Image source, Getty Images

The high temperatures brought disruption to a number of public services on Tuesday.

Miriam Deakin, interim deputy chief executive of NHS Providers, said the heatwave had forced hospitals to scale back planned surgeries, while a spokesperson for the East of England Ambulance Service said the service had seen above-average calls and was expecting to see the impact of heat-related illness into the weekend.

Around 8,000 properties in Yorkshire, Lincolnshire and north-east England were left without power after the extreme temperatures caused equipment to overheat.

At least nine people are also known to have died since Saturday while swimming in lakes and rivers.

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