More wildfires in 48 hours than in all of last July

Firefighters battling a blaze at Tintwistle in 2018.   (PA)
Firefighters battling a blaze at Tintwistle in 2018. (PA)

In the last 48 hours England and Wales have recorded at least two dozen wildfires, double the number recorded in all of July last year.

Paul Hedley, the lead on wildfires for the National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC), toldThe Independent that by around 4pm on Monday fire and rescue services across England and Wales had recorded at least 24 fires since Sunday morning at 7 a.m.

By comparison in July last year, 11 wildfires were recorded across both countries, he added.

“Everything is just tinder dry right across the country,” he said. “It’s certainly a lot more thant we’ll be expecting to get on a daily basis.”

Mr Hedley said the uptick in fires was linked to the extreme heat engulfing the country.

Wales provisionally recorded its hottest day on record on Monday, with temperatures reaching 35.3C in Gogerddan, near Aberystwyth in west Wales, according to the Met Office. While the Met Office said there is a 95 per cent cance the UK could also break its record of 38.7C either on Monday or Tuesday.

Heatwaves and dry spells in the UK - made more frequent and more intense by the climate crisis - sets the conditions for wildfires, experts say.

Mr Hedley said the wildfires were spread across the two countries and weren’t concentrated in any particular area demonstrating that regardless of where the Met Office’s red alert warning was located the conditions for wildfires are supportive “everywhere basically.”

So far he said no wildfire national tacitical advisors had been mobilised meaning forces appear to be coping or are relying on existing mutal aid with neighbouring services. They would nevertheless be very busy, he added.

The UK has developed a group of around 50 wildfire tactical advisers from services across the country , who can support incident command teams in their tactical and strategic plan for tackling a wildfire.

Mr Hedley said he was expecting the number of wildfires to continue to be higher than normal into Tuesday when the Met Office has forecast that temperatures could spike at around 40C in some parts of England.

“We’ve got to get through tomorrow,” he said.

But warned that: “Even after we get through this red warning period, temperatures are still going to be high and everything is still going to be bone dry so we’re going to have to be ... on guard and prepared certainly running into next week.”

Mr Hedley urged the public to not use portable BBQs, no camp fires, and to be careful not to discard cigarettes and to take rubbish home with them if they are out in the countryside.

“Given the extreme dryness of the vegetation and the extreme weather conditions that we’re experiencing any ignition source has the potential to cause a wildfire,” he said. “It’s a plea for public support to try to prevent them.”

Almost every wildfire in the UK is ignited by a human, whether deliberately or by accident.

“We just need people to be really really careful,” he added.