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Wildfires almost trebled in July as temperatures soared, says fire brigade

PUBLISHED: 12:55 18 September 2018 | UPDATED: 12:55 18 September 2018

Firefighters tackling the wildfire in Wanstead Flats on July 15 2018, London's

Firefighters tackling the wildfire in Wanstead Flats on July 15 2018, London's "biggest ever grass fire". Pic: Helen Mathias / EyeContact Photography

HelenMathias-EyeContact Photography

This summer saw grass fire numbers in the borough almost treble in a single month.

Firefighters tackle the fire. Pic: Helen Mathias / EyeContact PhotographyFirefighters tackle the fire. Pic: Helen Mathias / EyeContact Photography

There were 41 call outs to grass fires in Newham in the middle of the heatwave in July, according to the London Fire Brigade.

This was almost three times as many as last year when there were 14 for the same month.

In total there were 58 wildfires in June, July and August compared to 40 for summer 2017.

London Assembly member Caroline Russell – who revealed capital-wide numbers – said: “This summer’s record heatwaves and wildfires show how climate breakdown is worsening as a result of our failure to cut carboon emissions.

Fire crews dampening down a fire on Wanstead Flats. Pic: KEN MEARSFire crews dampening down a fire on Wanstead Flats. Pic: KEN MEARS

“These extreme weather events, which are becoming the norm, clearly have very serious implications for the London Fire Brigade and other rescue services.”

In total firefighters were called to 1,969 blazes across London in June, July and August more than twice as many for the same period last year when there were 914 calls to put out flames on grassland, woodland and crops.

But Wanstead Flats – which saw the capital’s biggest uncontrolled blaze engulf 100 acres needing 220 firefighters to put it out – is making a comeback according to nature lovers. Birdwatcher Barry Chapman from Facebook group The Nature of Wanstead Flats reported seeing regular migrants, wheatears, returning as well as spotted flycatchers, a redstart and a red-backed shrike which he said caused a stir with birders.

“The impact on the Skylarks, Wanstead Flats’ most celebrated bird, is yet to be confirmed. I heard and saw one the morning after the fire, but have only had one or two sightings since then,” Mr Chapman told the Newham Recorder.

Wanstead Flats after the grassfires. Pic: KEN MEARSWanstead Flats after the grassfires. Pic: KEN MEARS

Others have observed grass, trees and brambles shooting up from the blackened ground with Rosebay Willowherb, known as fireweed, blossoming.

But a great number of insects and wild animals would have perished, according to nature enthusiast Rosemary Stephens, although she said some may have dug down in the soil where the fire was less intense and could still make a return to the well-known area.


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