Terrifying blaze engulfs field amid warnings wildfires are ‘national risk’ to UK

Firefighters battle a terrifying blaze during the summer’s second heatwave as they warn huge wildfires are a “national risk” to the UK.

They told the Mirror they fear lives will be in danger during the latest hot spell, which could be more dangerous than last month’s.

Fire bosses are urging people to avoid having barbecues, setting off fireworks and fire lanterns to help reduce blazes like those that erupted at the weekend.

Temperatures are set to soar to 35C on Friday and 36C on Saturday.

It is the second hot weather event of the year – coming weeks after the UK’s record high of 40.3C in Lincolnshire on July 19.

It has prompted another temperature alert amid fears for the public’s health from noon today until Saturday evening.

The record highs sparked blazes across the UK, forcing fire services to declare major incidents. It comes after months of little rain, leaving Britain tinderbox dry.

Isaac Steen, 28, a firefighter at Basildon Fire Station in Essex, warned: “This one is much more dangerous because we have still not had that downpour.

“The public’s lives are at risk as well as our own. It’s worse this year.

“It seems with climate change this is going to happen regularly.

“We have so few firefighters because of Tory cuts. We used to have five to six firefighters on each truck and it’s four now and there’s less trucks on the road.”

South East England has clocked up the most days with little or no rain since 1976.

Odiham, a village in Hampshire, did not get any rain in July.

But the Met Office said there is “some hope” for next week with thundery downpours forecast amid more high temperatures.

On Sunday, firefighters tackled a blaze that engulfed a wheat field in Rutland, East Mids.

A spark from a steam railway is believed to have triggered a large fire near the ruins of Corfe Castle in Dorset on Saturday. Crews tackled a blaze in a field near Ashford in Kent yesterday.

In Devon, walkers watched in horror as a large section of Sidmouth cliff crashed on to the beach at 9.15am.

The hot spell was blamed for the second landslide in two weeks along the Jurassic Coast after scorching and cracking the cliffs.

Mr Steen, a representative of the Fire Brigades Union, warned: “In Australia and America you hear of firefighters dying in wildfires and unfortunately that could happen here regularly too. That’s terrifying.”

Experts are concerned the UK will experience an extended drought with millions now facing a hosepipe ban.

The Government has called for more water firms to bring in bans and stop leaks after 2.3 billion litres of water were lost each day from April 2020 to March 2021.

Neil Fenwick, area manager for Essex Fire and Rescue service, urged people not to light fires outside following a large blaze.

Homes had to be evacuated as flames spread through gardens in Chelmsford on Saturday night.

FBU assistant general secretary Andy Dark hit out over staff cuts.

He said: “Just over a fortnight ago firefighters had to deal with many serious wildfires. Several firefighters were injured and many people lost their homes. Instead of improving fire and rescue services we’ve had 11,500 firefighters cut since 2010.

“Understaffing was so bad that nearly all fire and rescue services in the most severely affected areas had to call up off-duty firefighters.

“If we are to properly protect life and property from wildfires the fire service urgently needs huge investment.”

The highest temperature recorded yesterday was 29C at St James’s Park in Central London.

The Met Office’s Marco Petagna issued a warning about the heatwave in the next few days, saying: “Although not as extreme as July, it’s still likely to have health implications.”

He said temperatures will gradually increase from 30C in the South-East today to 36C on Saturday, before returning to 32C on Sunday.