There were only three fire engines left in London on Tuesday as crews battles blazes sparked by the country’s hottest day ever.
London Fire Brigade (LFB) commissioner Andrew Roe said his staff dealt with 1,146 incidents on Tuesday which he said was “unprecedented”.
He said: “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.”
Speaking in Wennington in east London where homes were destroyed in a blaze caused by the heatwave, Mr Roe said: “We were left with three fire engines at one point.
“But to be frank we were moving vehicles all the time.
“It was the most dramatic situation I’ve ever faced as a firefighter.
“We were stretched but this was an absolutely exceptional set of circumstances and we threw everything at it.”
He told BBC News the brigade had to deal with major fires needing 12, 15 and 30 fire engines all at the same time.
Mr Roe suggested London could follow the lead of other countries using helicopters and planes to douse flames from above but said his priority was getting the brigade back up to full staffing by December this year following a “skills gaps” caused by the pandemic.
He said: “At the moment we have enough resources in relation to firefighters, appliances, kit and so forth.
“But if we have more regular heatwaves at this sort of level, if we have more regular flash flooding like we saw this time last year – that could happen again this year, then I’m really concerned about the ability of the fire service.”