British cities must do more to prepare for wildfires, the National Fire Chiefs Council has urged after fire crews were pushed to the limit responding to dozens of "unprecedented" blazes during the recent heatwave.

27 July 2022

Major fire incidents were declared in London, Norfolk, Suffolk, Lincolnshire, Leicestershire and South Yorkshire amid the tinder-dry conditions as temperatures climbed above 40C for the first time ever last Tuesday.

Dozens of families have been left homeless after their properties went up in flames, while firefighters warned the fires should serve as a "wake-up call" on climate change.

National Fire Chiefs Council tactical advisor David Swallow told the BBC “Services need to recognise the risk they’ve now got”.

“If they don’t, then they’re naive,” he added.

“There are very urban services that think that wildfires are low down on the risk list. I understand the need to prioritise resources, but there needs to be a review.”

Assistant commissioner of London Fire Brigade Jonathan Smith said services had already been preparing for an expected increased risk but added that risk was now “immediate”.

London Fire Brigade saw its busiest day since the Second World War as a result of the extreme temperatures, with crews attending 1,146 incidents in a single day.

Head of the brigade, Andy Roe, said he witnessed incidents even he admitted he never expected to see in the job.  “I think the word I’d use is unprecedented," he added.

“I’ve had a long operational career at some of the most significant incidents that London has seen in the past couple of decades but even with all that experience I saw stuff this week that I had not expected to see as a London firefighter.”