High risk of outdoor fires, in spite of temperatures dropping

West Midlands Fire Service warns: fire risk still high in spite of lower temperatures

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Published on 20 July 2022

Heatwave passes, but ground and vegetation remain extremely dry

Although the extreme heatwave temperatures have dropped, West Midlands Fire Service (WMFS) is still urging people to do all they can to avoid outdoor fires and to keep out of open water.

On Tuesday 19 July, Staffordshire and West Midlands fire control mobilised firefighters, fire engines and 4×4 Brigade Response Vehicles to 264 incidents across the West Midlands conurbation, including multiple outdoor fires.

We also responded to calls for support from neighbouring fire services, including Hereford and Worcester and Warwickshire, by sending fire crews to incidents in their areas.

This morning, Wednesday 20 July, we have sent two fire engines, ten firefighters and an officer to assist our colleagues in Norfolk, where the fire and rescue service has declared
a Major Incident because of the demands created by the heatwave.

Area Commander Samantha Burton, of WMFS, said: “The situation in Norfolk and across the country is a stark reminder that, even though temperatures have dropped, the risk of outdoor fires still remains very high.

“I want to say a huge thank you to all of our staff who have been involved in responding to fires during the heatwave.  

“Our fire control team have not only been answering 999 calls and deploying resources to hundreds of incidents in the West Midlands, but have also managed ‘overflow’ calls for a number of other fire and rescue services who have also been facing very high demand.

“Our firefighters and many of our officers have also had an incredibly busy few days, responding in extremely challenging conditions to many incidents. 

Two firefighters tackle a scrubland fire, one with a hose the other with a fire 'beater'

“Many of the outdoor fires to which we’ve responded have started spontaneously, because of the heat. However, some could inevitably have been avoided – for example, by people not using portable barbecues or disposing of cigarettes more carefully. Sadly, we suspect that a number will have been started deliberately – putting our crews and members of the public in unnecessary danger.  

“Although the temperatures have now dropped, conditions across the West Midlands are still at danger levels for fires. The ground, grass and other vegetation is extremely dry. Please do everything you can not to start a fire, accidentally or otherwise.  

“We’re also urging people to carefully dispose of waste including glass bottles which can intensify the sun’s rays and spark a fire.  

“Many of the incidents we’ve dealt with have involved garden sheds, so please think carefully about where you store flammable materials, including aerosol cans and fuel cans – out of direct sunlight, in cool conditions where possible and away from your property.

“This afternoon and evening we now have the added risk of thunderstorms and rain affecting parts of the West Midlands – another reason to take care, especially if you’re driving. Roads could be very slippery after being dry for so long, so please drive according to the conditions.”

Area Commander Burton also repeated a warning not to enter water like lakes or reservoirs to cool off or swim.

“Tragically, a number of people have died after getting into difficulties in open water this week. The warning not to take an outdoor dip applies to us all, but we are asking parents and carers in particular to help us drive home this important message to their children and friends.”