Met Office heat alert: London firefighters issue weather warning as grass fires increase by 700% on 2021

Firefighters tackled 340 grass, rubbish and open land fires in the first week of August alone - eight times more than the same week in 202 - when just 42 broke out.

Conditions in the capital are “tinderbox dry” as new data reveals grass fires have increased by 700% compared to this time last year, the London Fire Brigade (LFB) has said.

Firefighters tackled 340 grass, rubbish and open land fires in the first week of August alone - eight times more than the same week in 2021 - when just 42 broke out.

Around 25 firefighters tackled a grass fire the size of around two football pitches in Wanstead Flats. Credit: SWNS

A severe lack of rainfall in July and so far this month means the grass is extremely dry.

While the Met Office’s fire severity index shows an exceptional risk in London from tomorrow (Friday, August 12).

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Assistant commissioner Jonathan Smith has warned Londoners to not have barbecues in open spaces or on balconies, to throw rubbish away safely and to put cigarettes out properly.

Houses in Wennington, east London, burn after grass fires spread into the village during the heatwave earlier this week (Picture: Carl Court/Getty Images)

“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,” he said.

“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.

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“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.”

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

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

London Fire Brigade is also asking people to be careful with their use of water to support their work tackling fires later this summer.

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Advice to prevent grass fires:

  • Don’t drop cigarettes or anything burning on dry ground;
  • Don’t drop cigarettes out of car windows as they may land on dry grass by the roadside;
  • Don’t have barbecues in parks and public spaces;
  • Don’t barbecue on balconies, as the wind may carry smouldering ash towards nearby grassland;
  • And be aware of children, animals, balls or anything else that may knock over barbecues, especially when in busy parks or public spaces.

Water safety advice:

  • Don’t jump into open water as rivers such as the Thames are colder - even in the summer;
  • Don’t go into the water if someone else is in trouble – call London Fire Brigade or the coastguard;
  • Never drink alcohol and then go for a swim or attempt to jump into water;
  • And avoid walking/running near water on your own or late at night - it’s easier than you think to slip and fall in.