The UK village devastated by wildfire - and why residents fear it could happen again

Robbie used to love the summer but she is wary about the next one.

"Every time I smell smoke… the panic sets in and you think oh-no not again," she says.

Alongside her husband Dave, she shows me where the furniture was in their lounge. Scorch marks and scabs of melted plastic lie stuck to the tiles where the three-piece suite and TV once stood.

They were lucky, most of their home was saved but nine neighbouring cottages were destroyed and 10 others in the village of Wennington.

"There was anger. There was heartbreak. The tension on the day was unbelievable.

"We were watching the fire creep along the cottages and then the smoke started coming out of our roof and we said: 'It's gone'.

"It was the scariest day of my life."

It is six months since Britain's hottest ever day - when the temperature hit 40C and wildfires sparked across England.

Four homes were lost in Barnsley and 41 across the Greater London area.

Families lost everything

Wennington in Essex was the worst hit. In scenes more familiar from the likes of Portugal or California, a wildfire leapt between gardens, fields, and homes driven by a swirling wind. Almost anything was fuel.

Today the high street resembles a set of teeth with gaps. Terraced homes erased by flames and resulting demolition. As we are there, steel-jawed cranes pick through the rubble separating garden gnomes from blackened bed springs.

A few steps along the main street, Sophie Woods has come back to see her former home for the last time.

"It's being demolished today," she says. "I feel devastated. You just never think in a million years that something like that could happen... that day was absolutely awful.

"We lost everything."

Would the UK be any better protected if such weather returned this year?

'This could happen again'

Wennington resident Dave wants rules on firebreaks that would compel landowners to remove flammable vegetation close to buildings.

The Forestry Commission now has accredited "vegetation fire training" and the local station commander, Graham Beers, says his officers are now offering advice on preventing your back garden from becoming an accidental tinder box.

He said: "This would include information about keeping your hedges trimmed down, taking away any fire loading items in your garden you don't need... old gas cylinders and even safe use of BBQs."

But the Climate Change Committee - the independent body which advises on averting climate change and, crucially, how to respond to it - has criticised the government for lacking preparedness for a more hostile climate.

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"We have two challenges in climate," says chief executive Chris Stark.

"One is reducing emissions... the other is adaptation and I'm afraid governments across the UK are just not stepping up to that.

"So we have various plans for adaptation, but they don't really amount to a hill of beans."

In practice, that means little is being done to make us and our properties safer.

Back in Wennington, Dave agrees: "This could happen again. I mean global warming - it's not coming, it's here. It's here and things need to be put in place."

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