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Don't barbecue in open spaces! New data from London Fire Brigade shows unprecedented increase in grass fires

  • ‘Tinderbox dry’ conditions mean an exceptional fire risk across London during the heatwave
  • Firefighters tackled 340 grass, rubbish and open land fires in first week of August, compared to 42 fires in same week last year – more than eight times as many
  • Fire chief says: don’t have barbecues in open spaces or on balconies, throw rubbish away safely and put cigarettes out properly

New data shows a major increase in grass, rubbish and open land fires in London compared to last year, prompting an urgent warning from firefighters as the second heatwave of the summer starts.

Amber warning for extreme heat

An amber warning for extreme heat between today and Sunday across parts of the country including London has been issued by the Met Office. A lack of rainfall in July and August means grass is extremely dry and the Met Office’s Fire Severity Index shows an exceptional risk in London from tomorrow.

London Fire Brigade’s Control Room has mobilised thousands of firefighters to 340 grass, rubbish and open land fires during the first week of August – an eightfold increase on the 42 during the same week last year.

Resources are in place for the heatwave, but firefighters are again asking people to take action during the dry weather to prevent fires from happening in the first place.

How you can help

Assistant Commissioner Jonathan Smith said: “This summer has seen an unprecedented long, dry spell with high temperatures so the grass in London is tinderbox dry and the smallest of sparks can start a blaze which could cause devastation. “Despite our continued warning over the last few weeks, we know there are still people who are barbecuing in parks, dropping cigarettes out of car windows and leaving rubbish lying around. “We really need to prevent a repeat of the situation we saw on July 19, when homes, shops, garages, outbuildings and vehicles were destroyed across London in a number of significant fires.

“So please – we are asking Londoners to help us protect the city we all love by doing everything you can to prevent further grass fires. Please don’t barbecue in open spaces or balconies, throw your rubbish away safely and put your cigarettes out properly.”

Glass bottles, in particular, cause a high risk of igniting dry grass if left as litter. 

In recent weeks, the number of calls that London Fire Brigade’s control room officers have taken has also significantly increased.

Between 18 July and 7 August this year, 18,603 calls were taken compared to 12,102 calls in the same period last year.

Earlier this week, Thames Water announced it intends to introduce a hosepipe ban in the coming weeks. London Fire Brigade is also asking people to be careful with their use of water to support our work tackling fires later this summer.

London Fire Brigade

Parched London - images of the drought in the capital in the Guardian

Tags for Forum Posts: fire, grass, heatwave, nature notes

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Last night some morons let off fireworks at 12.45am by Alexandra Palace.  It's a miracle there wasn't a blaze.

I'm beyond being surprised at how little people understand how dangerous the situation is in the South East right now with regard to a major fire breaking out. There are people holding barbecues in the ancient woodland of Coldfall Wood. Why, in a heatwave, people feel the need to light a fire and burn cheap meat is beyond me? What's wrong with a bloody sandwich for your picnic? Disposable barbecues should be banned from sale outright and a major no holds barred information campaign about how to behave responsibly in dry spells like the public info films of the 1970s is the very least that could be done right now to educate people who still don't get it.

Agreed. Public education campaigns are needed on a number of issues including barbequing in heatwaves, littering, spitting, using phones while driving, speeding down suburban streets, cousin marriage, drug use, monkey pox, FGM, knife carrying are a few examples that spring to mind. However, there is no common outlet to distribute these messages. The BBC no longer serves this ourpose. A significant proportion of people get their news and information from foreign sources or friends on social media. I think a beefed up park warden service or reintroduction of Park Police with powers to fine and arrest is the way to deal with this. If they were robust the revenue from fines would probably pay for the extra resources.

Let's start with the most pressing one!  Covid public info films were distributed via social media as well as conventional media (not clear what you mean by foreign sources? Foreign news channels? or whether those who access them are a significant proportion). Other high level public info campaigns targeting harassment or discrimination happen all the time.

Educating people about the dangers of heatwaves isn't hard to do but it needs to be done as quickly as governments were able to put together info films for Covid. It could be done but as there's no one at the very top doing any significant work in government any more, I'm not holding my breath. The good news is that some supermarkets are now withdrawing disposable barbecues from sale which will at least make it harder for some people and may encourage them to buy a salad instead...although we then get the problem with all that supermarket packaging litter, but at least they won't be burning down 500 year old woodland even if they leave the micro plastics to degrade into the soil for the next 500 years.

Had Sainsbury's promotional email yesterday saying it's a great time to 'fire up the BBQ!! What are they thinking?

People in Finsbury Park this evening with bbqs fitting the 'hard to reach' section of the population.

Sainsbury’s are finally banning the sale from of disposable barbecues following the lead of most other major retailers.  It’s a start. Whether smaller retailers will show similar good sense remains to be seen. The fact people can see major fires reported on tv and not make the connection to their own choices is the harder nut to crack. 

Not only barbecues but fireworks should be banned too.  What is their purpose?  In ye olden days they were at least confined to November the 5th; now, they seem to be let off any time.  For fun?  What fun?

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