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Tuesday (19 July) was the ‘busiest day for the fire service in London since the Second World War’ dealing with multiple blazes in record-breaking temperatures, London Mayor Sadiq Khan said as he stressed the impact of the extreme weather on the fire and rescue services.
The capital was one of 15 areas around the UK to declare a major incident with fires starting on a day which saw a record temperature of 40.3C (104.5F) in Coningsby, Lincolnshire.
The mayor said: “Normally we get 350 calls a day, on a busy day we can get up to 500 calls. [On Tuesday] the fire service had more than 2,600 calls a day.”
In Wennington, East London, 100 firefighters tackled a blaze which destroyed several homes. London Fire Brigade (LFB) said two rows of terraced houses, four other homes, 12 stables and five cars were destroyed by the blaze, while one firefighter at the scene described it as “absolute hell”.
The mayor has advised Londoners not to have barbecues in parks or private gardens over concerns they could set alight grass. Barbecues are one of the most common causes of grass and open land blazes and while many councils have already localised bans in place, Commissioner Roe from LFB has asked for support city-wide.
In his letter, he said: “With no end to the hot weather in sight, I am deeply concerned that the unprecedented scale of these fires is set to continue, putting lives at risk as well as devastating green spaces around the capital.
“London Fire Brigade has been issuing warnings and safety advice to Londoners throughout the summer, but people are continuing to behave carelessly and recklessly.
“I am now calling for a temporary ban on the use of barbecues in all public parks and open spaces and I’m asking for your help to keep people safe.”
LFB Assistant Commissioner Jonathan Smith said the heat and dry conditions created “the perfect scenario” for fires to spread rapidly across grassland and woodland, with the speed being a particular challenge.
“Firefighters across London worked in very difficult conditions to protect Londoners and their heroic actions mean no lives were lost. I am immensely proud of them and their dedication in such unprecedented heat.
“We declared a major incident and worked with emergency service partners who have also been working hard to continue to run services in these difficult and challenging conditions. By taking action, we were able to focus and prioritise our resources, recall staff from training, call on support from other local fire and rescue services and attend every incident as needed.”
Elsewhere, a number of homes were destroyed by fire in Norfolk, and major incidents were declared in Leicestershire, Hertfordshire, Suffolk, Lincolnshire and Yorkshire, among others.
NFCC Chair Mark Hardingham commented: “We have seen fire and rescue services receive an exceptionally high number of calls during the last few days. Fire control rooms across the country have given superb and professional support to co-ordinate the demand with the ultimate aim to keep people and property safe.
“However, the number of large fires and major incidents declared is concerning. We are working with all fire and rescue services and government departments to ensure additional support can be given where and when it is needed.
“I would like to give my heartfelt thanks to the firefighters, control staff, officers and support staff who have worked tirelessly over the past few days in difficult conditions, with the same aim – to prevent injuries and protect life.”