Wildfires soar 500% in parts of UK as government told to hold emergency water supply meeting

Soaring temperatures have caused wildfires to rise by almost 500 per cent, fire services in Dorset and Wiltshire have warned, as drought conditions put pressure on water supplies in parts of the UK.

Jason Moncrieff, regional director of the Dorset and Wiltshire fire services, said they were “massively stretched” due to the surge in wildfires in the region.

“It’s a huge difference. The first 10 days of August this year compared to last year saw 492% more of these types of fires. So it’s field fires, grass fires, moorland fires – all those sorts of open fires, a 492 per cent increase this year,” Mr Moncrieff told the Today program.

He added that a fire on the Studland Peninsula near Purbeck on Friday was caused by an outdoor barbecue and could therefore have been avoided.

Rural Dorset is ‘dry’ officers have warned

(Swanage Fire Station)

Emergency services were called to the fire around 1 p.m., where at one point 90 crew members were working to put out the flames and remained at the scene overnight.

The flames spread to the Isle of Purbeck, forcing police to evacuate Studland beach which was occupied by people in the sun.

The fire department warns people against using barbecues in the countryside, where the grass has dried out due to weeks of hot, dry conditions and a red severity fire alert is now in place in Dorset and Wiltshire for the next few days.

“Amazingly, yesterday’s fire appears to have been started by a disposable barbecue,” Mr Moncrief said. ‘There can’t be many people in Britain who don’t know that the advice at the moment is don’t bring barbecues, don’t use barbecues, especially disposable barbecues in these places like Studland Heath . It’s our message, bring a picnic – don’t bring a barbecue.

The region’s countryside is “drier”, added group manager Stuart Gillion.

“This not only increases the risk of fires spreading rapidly, but also increases the risk of ignition. We urge local farmers to be extra careful as sparks from hot machinery can easily set a field on fire, and we ask all who enjoy our beautiful countryside and coastline to take extra care and be alert to anything that could cause a fire. .”

Drought ‘could persist for months’

It comes after the Environment Agency (EA) warned that drought in England could persist for months until 2023.

John Curtin, executive director of local operations at EA, said after the driest summer in 50 years, it would take “weeks of rain” to replenish water sources.

The drought could persist into the new year, the Environment Agency has warned

(Swanage Fire Station)

Eight of the EA’s 14 designated areas have now moved into ‘drought’ stage two, including Devon and Cornwall, Solent and South Downs, Kent and South London, Herts and North London, East Anglia, Thames, Lincolnshire and Northamptonshire, and East Midlands.

Although the EA has reassured the public that essential water supplies are secure, Thames Water has been forced to set up temporary bottled water sites in Surrey as water has been cut off in the area where east dropped to low pressure due to a technical problem during the night.

“We are very sorry if you have no water or low pressure due to technical issues at Netley Mill Water Treatment Works. We are doing everything we can to restore supply as quickly as possible” , Thames Water said in a statement on Saturday.

Frustrated locals could be seen forming winding queues at water sites in Cranleigh and Surrey Hills after waking up with no water.

South West Surrey MP Jeremy Hunt weighed in on the chaos as he assured residents Thames Water staff were working ‘around the clock’ to resolve the issue. His intervention was criticized as social media users accused him of using the incident as a “photo op”.

Former England footballer Graeme Le Saux, who lives in the area, replied: “It’s all about you, isn’t it? While people suffer, you happily support poorly managed vital infrastructure. There is no bottled water at the pick up points, they are already sold out. But hey, a great opportunity for you to send a meaningless tweet! »

“Take four-minute showers”

Meanwhile, Southern Water, which imposed a garden hose ban this month, advised the public to conserve water by only flushing the toilet when needed, taking four-minute showers and collecting water from the shower to flush the toilet.

Water companies have urged companies to adjust their habits to save water

(Swanage Fire Station)

Lobbying the Tories, Labor has called on the government to call a Cobra meeting to ensure water supplies are protected amid the current drought.

Deputy party leader Angela Rayner said: ‘This is the second major heat wave in weeks, but this Conservative government is once again letting our country down. Tory inaction on drought warnings is creating a dust bowl in Britain.

“Instead of intervening, ministers have fallen asleep in the midday sun. They are lecturing the public on the use of garden hoses, but where is their plan to protect our vital water system.

“It’s been almost a year since they launched their consultation on the National Resilience Strategy and yet they don’t have a single plan. They are all spinning and without substance.

More extreme hot and dry conditions were expected across the southern half of the UK this weekend, while the northern half is expected to be hit by thunderstorms and flooding.

The Met Office has issued an orange heat warning covering most of England and Wales, where temperatures of up to 34C are forecast for Saturday and Sunday.

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