London under threat from rising number of hot weather fires
Published on 5 August 2010
Grass fires can be set deliberately or started accidentally. Either way they pose a huge risk to wildlife, parkland and even people's lives.
The number of grass fires across London has shot up and, with the hot weather set to continue, the London Fire Brigade fears further fires.
Compared to this time last year, grass fires across London are up 25%. Weather experts recently declared that last month was one of the driest Julys on record, which could, in part, explain the rise in the number of grass fires.
Rita Dexter, London Fire Brigade's Deputy Commissioner, said: "Grass can go up like a tinder box in these dry conditions, which is why we always see a surge in the number of grass fires in the summer. This so called 'smouldering summer' will undoubtedly continue unless people take greater care with things like cigarettes and barbecues".
Grass fires can be set either deliberately or accidentally. Either way they pose a huge risk to wildlife, parkland and even people's lives. The main causes of accidental grass fires are barbecues, cigarettes, discarded matches and glass bottles, which, when left on dry grass, can concentrate the sun's rays and cause fires. Firefighters advise that barbecues are never left unattended and are completely put out after being used. Cigarettes should also be carefully disposed of as they can easily ignite dry grass. Firefighters are particularly concerned about drivers who throw lit cigarettes out of car windows, as dry grass verges can easily go up in flames.
Grass fires can also have an adverse effect on transport links. Dave Ward, route director at Network Rail, said: "Millions of people rely on rail to travel into, around and out of the capital every day. When fires occur on railway embankments, it can cause a huge amount of disruption for passengers. With safety being the number one priority we often have to suspend trains services so passengers are not put at risk and to allow the fire brigade to put out the fire safely. "
The Brigade advises that if you see a grass fire, you shouldn't attempt to put it out yourself as grass fires can travel very quickly and change direction without warning. You should call 999 immediately and tell the Brigade where the fire is.
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