Residents were evacuated as grass fire took hold in Norbury

Norbury on fire: it took 100 firefighters four hours to get a grass blaze under control yesterday – the cause is now subject of a police investigation

Police investigation underway into causes of the large blaze, which Fire Brigade says threatened to spread to ‘a whole street of houses’

Croydon parks friends groups and volunteers who help out around some of the borough’s open spaces and beauty spots are probably hoping for a decent dousing of rain to avoid suffering the fate of school playing field in Norbury yesterday, which needed 100 firefighters to deal with a grass fire.

Around 35 nearby homes were affected, with nearly 20 residents needing to be evacuated as a precaution, as the fire caught hold across 17 acres of wasteland, shrubs and open space near Turle Road.

The smoke from the fire could be seen across the borough, with warnings issued by the Fire Brigade for residents to keep windows closed on the hot summer afternoon to avoid smoke inhalation. There were no reports of anyone being hurt or injured in the grass blaze.

Smoky Sunday: the Norbury grass fire could be seen from miles around

In our longer, hotter and drier summers, grass fires are becoming an increasing threat.

It is four years now since a grass fire tore through the delicate heather ecosystem on Croham Hurst, a Site of Special Scientific Interest. The cause of the fire has never been known for certain – a cigarette butt carelessly dropped, perhaps, or maybe even just a discarded glass bottle magnified the sun’s rays. But the process of recovery for the plants and wildlife in the burned and acorched area is a slow one.

The Park Hill park’s friends group was appealing to residents not to use disposable barbecue kits in the park over the weekend, after some left embers and burnt patches on the grass in the public space.

In Norbury, 15 fire engines were called out to deal with the grass fire there, and spent most of the day trying to ensure that the grass fire did not spread or re-ignite.

Station Commander Keith Sanders, who was at the scene, said: “Firefighters worked hard to bring the fire under control and checked local properties and gardens for fire spread.

Out of control: 20 residents were evacuated from the homes as a precaution when the fire took hold

“The fire produced heavy smoke in the area and the direction of the wind was blowing smoke towards local terraced houses.

“We encouraged people to avoid the area and asked local residents to keep windows and doors closed.”

The Brigade was called at 12.27pm and the fire was under control by 4.08pm.

Fire crews from West Norwood, Mitcham, Wallington, Norbury, Woodside and surrounding fire stations attended the scene.

London Fire Brigade’s Assistant Commissioner Jonathan Smith, said: “Firefighters faced a very intense and serious fire.

“There is no doubt that the dynamic actions taken by crews immediately on arrival saved more than 40 homes from the blaze.

“Hot and windy conditions made tackling the fire challenging and firefighters worked incredibly hard to save a whole street’s worth of houses.”

The cause of the fire is under investigation by the Brigade and the Metropolitan Police Service.

Firefighters’ top tips on grass fires:

  • Avoid having barbecues in parks and public spaces
  • Clear away bottles, glasses and any broken glass to avoid them magnifying the sun and starting a fire
  • Dispose of smoking materials such as cigarettes safely – don’t drop cigarettes on dry ground and don’t drop them out of car windows, as they may land on dry grass and lead to a fire
  • Never leave barbecues unattended and extinguish them properly after you have finished using them
  • Disposable barbecues that have been discarded and abandoned can still end up causing a fire as they will continue to retain heat after use – they need to be put right out and cooled before being thrown away
  • Do not barbecue on balconies, the wind can carry smouldering ash on to nearby grassland
  • If you’re barbecuing near dry grass, have a bucket of water or sand nearby for emergency use
  • Be aware that children, animals, balls or anything else may knock over barbecues, increasing the risk of grass fires

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News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email
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