Fire Brigade at the ready as risk of grass fires rises in the heat

Devastation: grass fires can quickly get out of control, as this one in Norbury last year showed

Firefighters are asking people to follow safety advice as the hot weather continues, with forecast temperatures above 30⁰C.

This follows an Amber heat-health alert issued by the UK Health Security Agency, which asks people to check on older family members, friends or neighbours.

The Mayor of London’s Cool Spaces Map provides information about where Londoners can find places to shelter from the sun and cool down.

Thousands of Londoners are expected to flock to parks and open spaces this weekend to enjoy the sunshine, so London Fire Brigade is reminding everyone of the increased risk of barbeques during this hot weather.

Some councils sensibly ban the use of “disposable” barbecues in their parks and open spaces, although there is rarely any enforcement of such bye laws.

Disposable barbecues pose a significant fire risk if they are not used appropriately and put out properly, because heat can be retained for many hours even after a barbeque has been put out.

On call: LFB teams have been out and about in London to get their safety message across

And the Brigade says, “Barbecues of any type should also never be used indoors or on balconies.” A large-scale fire in a block of flats on Whitehorse Road earlier this summer was linked to the use of a barbecue on the balcony of one flat, where the external platforms were made substantially from highly combustible wood. Two homes were destroyed in the blaze.

Barbecues, the Brigade warns, “should never be left unattended, and they should be kept well away from anything flammable like sheds, fences, trees or tents.”

Discarded smoking materials and leftover rubbish also pose a huge fire risk in open spaces. LFB is asking Londoners to ensure their rubbish is placed securely inside a bin or to take it home with them. The Brigade is also asking for those using cigarettes to make sure they are completely out.

London Fire Brigade Assistant Commissioner for Fire Safety, Charlie Pugsley, said: “After what has been a relatively cool summer, Londoners will undoubtedly want to be out enjoying this spell of fine weather, but this has to be done safely.

“It only takes a spark to ignite a fire and, as we saw last year, grass fires can be unpredictable and spread very quickly, causing significant amounts of damage. We’ve already seen a number of grass fires this week. We’ve been working hard to prepare and respond to weather like this but we need everyone to play their part to reduce the risk of fires occurring.”

Sound advice: Fiona Twycross

Deputy Mayor for Fire and Resilience, Fiona Twycross, said: “While we enjoy the sunshine and warm weather it is vital that we all take sensible precautions to look after ourselves and help reduce the pressure on our emergency services who will be very busy during this heatwave.

“I would urge Londoners not to have barbecues on balconies or in open spaces, to throw rubbish away safely, and to dispose of cigarettes properly to avoid inadvertently starting a fire.

“And we’re encouraging everyone in our capital to use 4,000 free water refill locations and more than 100 new water fountains that we have installed as part of our work to build a greener, fairer and safer London for everyone.”

The hot weather might also tempt people into ponds and rivers but even in warm temperatures, cold water has the ability to cause cold water shock. Just this week, an off-duty London firefighter rescued a boy from drowning.

Last summer’s grass fires were an example of the range of new challenges firefighters are facing as a result of extreme weather resulting from climate change.

Grass fire prevention tips

  • Don’t drop cigarettes or anything that is burning on dry ground
  • Don’t drop cigarettes out of car windows – they may land on dry grass by the roadside
  • Don’t have barbecues in parks and open spaces during hot weather
  • Do not barbecue on balconies, the wind may carry smouldering ash towards nearby grassland
  • Be aware that children, animals, balls or anything else may knock over barbecues, increasing the risk of grass fires, especially when in a busy parks or public spaces.

Read more: Residents were evacuated as grass fire took hold in Norbury
Read more: 12 fire engines on call to blazes in tinder-dry Croydon hills
Read more: No injuries after blaze damages three flats on Whitehorse Road

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