Major incident declared and public told to cancel barbecues as wildfires tear across southeast England

·5-min read

Firefighters battled a series of fierce “weather-related” wildfires across southeast England on Sunday, prompting the declaration of a major incident in Surrey.

Both Surrey Fire and Rescue (SFR) and the London Fire Brigade (LFB) issued pleas to the public to cancel any barbecue plans in a bid to prevent further outbreaks.

Firefighters were called to Hankley Common – which was used for filming part of the 2012 James Bond film Skyfall – just after midday. As of Sunday evening, emergency services said the fire had engulfed at least eight hectares of land.

Some 19 vehicles, including fire engines and specialist units, attended the scene – with support from the Hampshire and Isle of Wight and West Sussex fire services.

“There is a great deal of smoke so please avoid the area, windows and doors should be closed if nearby and pets kept indoors,” SFR wrote on Twitter.

Both the police and the fire service urged people to avoid the area and said that some roads local, including Thursley Road, were closed.

“Crews are expected to remain on scene at least until tomorrow,” SFR said in an online post, adding: “Please help keep our outdoors safe: pack a picnic instead of a disposable barbecue and dispose of cigarettes correctly.”

Images and videos of the towering inferno on Hankley Common were posted on social media, accompanied by footage that showed smoke billowing through the sky – reaching as far as Guildford and Hounslow.

Responding to videos of the Surrey blaze, the fire service said: “Please avoid the area to allow our crews to work. Stay out of the smoke and far away from the fire as it can travel quickly.”

Hankley Common saw some of the largest blazes (Surrey Fire and Rescue)
Hankley Common saw some of the largest blazes (Surrey Fire and Rescue)

The capital also fell victim to a series of significant grass fires which firefighters scrambled to control in Enfield, Hayes and Thamesmead amid highs of 28C on Sunday.

The LFB, which described the fires as “weather related”, said that between midnight and 5pm on Sunday it had attended more incidents than it would have during a normal 24-hour period.

“Please help us prevent further fires by cancelling all planned barbecues, removing rubbish especially glass from grassland and disposing cigarettes correctly,” the fire service said in a post on Twitter.

“Our firefighters and control officers are doing a fantastic job in challenging conditions. Your co-operation will help us greatly.”

Some 15 fire engines and around 100 firefighters were deployed to tackle a fire in north London after grassland in Rammey Marsh, Enfield, caught fire.

The LFB said that 20 hectares had been damaged by the blaze, the cause of which is now subject to an investigation.

Firefighters were first called to the scene at 11am and the fire was under control by 5.40pm thanks to crews from Enfield and surrounding fire stations.

A further 10 fire engines and around 70 firefighters were sent to a second grass fire in Cranford Park, Hayes, west London, just before 3pm, where an estimated five hectares of grass and shrubland were ablaze.

“The fire is producing a great deal of smoke across west London,” the LFB said in a statement on its website.

“If you’re affected please close your doors and windows.”

Just before 6pm on Sunday, the LFB said that “steady progress” was being made to control the Cranford Park blaze.

Posting on Twitter, the fire service said: “Firefighters yet again have shown their bravery; working in hot temperatures to tackle the blaze. It is still smoky in west London so close windows if affected.”

By Sunday afternoon, firefighters were rushed to a third grass fire in Thamesmead, southeast London.

Posting on Twitter, the LFB said: “Eight fire engines, the fire boat and around 65 firefighters are dealing with a grass fire on Defence Close in Thamesmead.”

Fire crews from Plumstead and surrounding fire stations were first called to the blaze in Gallions Reach Park at 3.55pm, where one hectare of grassland continues to burn.

Reports of smoke have erupted across the capital as the fire service continues to attempt to bring Sunday’s fires under control.

Broadcaster BigJetTV shared images and footage of smoke rising over Heathrow Airport, which it attributes to a “nearby grass fire”.

A spokesperson for Heathrow Airport told The Independent it could not confirm the source of the smoke above the airport, which they added was not affecting its services at present.

It comes after the LFB last week declared a major incident due to “a huge surge” in blazes across the capital amid the 40C heat.

The fire service recorded its busiest day since the Second World World as record temperatures led to hundreds of fires across the city – destroying more than 40 houses and shops.

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