At the end of a week that has seen nearly 200 callouts to a variety of incidents across our two counties, HWFRS is reminding people to take exceptional care over the weekend as the extreme temperatures continue to rise. This follows the Met Office’s Amber Alert covering our area as well as other parts of England and Wales.
This ‘Extreme Heat Warning’ warns of potential adverse effects to people vulnerable to extreme heat, as well as heat risks to the wider population. Weekend temperatures are forecast to reach 35 degrees across our two counties or even higher.
This week caps a period of extraordinary activity for HWFRS during the last four weeks totalling some 634 incidents. In an exceptionally busy week for the Service, crews have attended some 193 incidents in the week up until today (12 August.) Of these calls, 143 have been to fires – with 94 of them being to fires in the open.
After extreme fires last month on the Lickey Hills and Hartlebury Common, yesterday’s serious fire at Great Witley joined other fires in the open in and around Worcester, Redditch, Kidderminster, Bromsgrove, Stourport on Severn, Stourbridge and Ledbury among many others on the list this week. Disposable barbecues continue to be a particular danger, with evidence of their continuing use in the countryside and their potential to ignite tinder-dry ground.
Yesterday’s Great Witley fire involved three vehicles being burnt out, and affected gardens and garages. Other callouts have been to fires on farmland, embankments, hedgerows, and involving rubbish and refuse, gardens and trees, as well as to water incidents and animal rescues, and flooding of internal electrics.
There were 16 calls to RTCs on motorways and county roads, a further 16 to rescues and 18 classified as ‘other’ - of which eight were to assist paramedics. The motorway RTCs caused significant traffic delays with lane closures necessary while the incidents were tackled. The Service has also deployed to several water and animal rescue incidents.
To tackle some of these callouts, the Service has worked alongside fellow firefighters from neighbouring services including the West Midlands and Shropshire Fire and Rescue Services, making best use of their joint experience gained from extensive operational and training activities with our partner services. We’re therefore again urging people to exercise extreme caution as the heatwave continues to rise over the weekend. Top Tips to stay safe:
- Avoid open fires, but if one starts, get well away and call 999 immediately, giving the exact location if possible, give a map reference or a conspicuous landmark or building nearby
- If you’re camping or caravanning, keep the tent and caravan a safe distance from others and don’t take any fire-risks while inside or close-by
- Avoid disposable barbecues: they can rapidly – and do - set fire to dry vegetation and stay red-hot for hours
- If you’re having a barbecue at home, keeping a bucket of water handy, only use approved barbecue lighters and don’t throw live embers in the dustbin
- Never discard cigarette ends, they can spark off grass fires even if you think they’re extinguished
- Don’t leave bottles or glass in woodlands or even on a window - sunlight shining through glass can easily ignite a fire
- Please don’t burn garden waste until the heatwave is over, as this can get out of control very fast
- If you’re heading to water to cool off, opt for a swimming pool rather than rivers or lakes – they remain deceptively cold under the surface and ‘cold water shock kills’
- If your road journey is unavoidable – eg setting off for a weekend break or the family holiday - please ensure you take plenty of water, the vehicle is fully serviced and you have a charged mobile phone – and know who to call out in case of breakdowns!
Area Commander George Marshall, HWFRS Assistant Director for Protection, said: “Now that the heatwave has continued for well over a week, the ground has become totally dry, including well below the surface, so it is more important than ever that we avoid any activity that could spark off a fire.
“It is more than likely that some of the large-scale fires that we have tackled in recent days could have been avoided with more care, reducing pressure on our firefighters who continue to respond to the sort of incidents that we see during more normal weather.
“With temperatures due to exceed 35 degrees over the weekend, and an Amber Alert in place, it is vital that we all take particular care not to cause fires or other incidents which could be avoided with a little planning, and we should remember to look after our own health. “That way, we can avoid putting ourselves, the fire service or other emergency services in unnecessary danger.
“Further information on how to stay safe and avoid causing fires or other incidents is on our website at Safety and advice | Hereford & Worcester Fire and Rescue Service “We’re grateful to the public for their support on this and greatly heartened by the many messages of thanks we have received, which are much appreciated. “Have a great weekend but above all, stay safe!”