UK
19/07/2013 11:31 BST | Updated 18/09/2013 06:12 BST

Wildfires Strike Around Britain And Ireland As Heatwave Continues

A firefighter tackles a gorse fire near Dublin
PA
A firefighter tackles a gorse fire near Dublin

Devastating wildfires have ripped through parts of the country as the longest heatwave for seven years spread across Britain, with forecasters warning temperatures could climb as high as 35C.

Mountain blazes tore across the south Wales' valleys while flames devastated swathes of Tentsmuir Forest in north east Fife, Scotland, last night, and London experienced its worst grass fires since 2006.

The spate of hot weather is believed to have caused up to 760 premature deaths already and weathermen today warned that the hottest day of the year is yet to come.

The mercury - which reached reached 32.2C (90F) on Wednesday - is expected to rise to around 33C next week. Weathermen said there was a "slim" chance it could even hit 35C in the South on Tuesday or Wednesday.

The Met Office has warned of an "elevated risk" of fires in the countryside following six consecutive days of plus-30C temperatures and a dramatic reduction in the average monthly rainfall.

Crops due for imminent harvest are said to be particularly vulnerable to blazes.

east london heath fire
Firefighters tackled a blaze on heathland in east London on Friday

In London, firefighters have tackled 37 grass fires since Wednesday afternoon and this number is expected to rise in the coming days.

The Epping Forest Guardian reports that a "massive" grass fire broke out in Whipps Cross in East London on Friday afternoon. Six fire engines and 30 firefighters tackled the blaze on dry grassland, reports said.

Dave Brown, of London Fire Brigade, said: "We're attending the highest number of grass fires since 2006 but we are more than able to cope with every incident in London.

"Grass fires can cause a great deal of damage to open spaces and wildlife, and can be avoided by making sure that cigarettes and barbecues are extinguished properly, and that glass bottles are disposed of carefully."

Officers were called to Mitcham Common yesterday when flames burned through grass and gorse in an area the size of four football pitches.

London Fire Brigade (LFB) has already dealt with twice as many grass fires in this summer's heatwave compared with last year.

a firefighter battling a gorse blaze on howth head
Firefighters near Dublin had to use golf carts to ferry equipment to the blaze at Howth Head

In Dorset, a 16-year-old boy has been arrested on suspicion of arson following two major heath fires in the Poole area this week. According to the Bournemouth Echo, officers made the arrest following a blaze on Canford Heath on Tuesday, and a further fire on Ham Common on Wednesday.

Inspector Ian Roe of Dorset Police said officers would continue to patrol in key heathland areas. "I ask the public to remain vigilant and to report any suspicious behaviour especially in the prevailing hot and dry weather conditions.”

Irish firefighters had to use golf buggies to reach gorse fires at Howth Head near Dublin. The blaze, which social media users likened to a volcano, was eventually brought under control.

A fire brigade spokesman told the Irish Times: "We are basically relaying water, filling the pump, using it, and filling it again - because there isn’t a running water supply up there that we can access."

The Daily Telegraph reports that Avon Fire and Rescue Service has responded to three times as many grass, bush and rubbish fires as usual, with disposable barbecues being a particular culprit. Hertfordshire Fire and Rescue Service report similar levels of call-outs for grass fires.