Yorkshire fire chief issues existential climate change warning after 'brutal' day for firefighters up and down the country as heatwave sets Britain alight

‘What the hell just happened?’ The words of a West Yorkshire Deputy Chief Fire Officer after facing what he describes as one of the most 'brutal' days' firefighting in his entire career.

He goes on: "What the hell just happened? My partner (a 999 Fire Control supervisor) and I both used exactly the same phrase as we got home from work today. The true story of today will not become clear until incidents are debriefed, call and incident numbers are reconciled, and tales from incidents are recounted. I’ll start by paying tribute to the awe inspiring work of firefighters, fire control staff, officers and support staff over the last few days and today in particular - you are all amazing.

"But I’d like to share a few, early, thoughts on…be under no illusion the type of incident splashed all over national news from London happened the length and breadth of England today, it just hasn’t got the media coverage yet. Today was a game changer. 999 calls were stacked and bouncing around the various Fire Controls around the country. Fire crews were going from one incident to the next, to the next. It has been brutal. I’ve never known so many major incidents declared at a whole FRS level at once. I lost count at one point.

"This is not a post about the effects of austerity on the fire service, or how hot it was in 1976, or the fact that it was just a ‘hot day’ - it’s about a peek into the future. It’s about demand for fire engines and firefighters far, far outstripping the numbers that any reasonable person would expect to be available at any one time. It’s about a completely and fundamentally different operating environment where fires burn with such ferocity, and spread with such speed in suburban areas that you CAN’T STOP THEM.

"We’ve seen the kind of conditions faced by international colleagues just miles from our capital city, and in towns, villages and cities the length and breadth of the country. You can’t ask your neighbouring fire service for mutual aid when they’re just a busy as you are, and so are their neighbours, and their neighbours etc.

"Your Fire & Rescue Service staff are heroes - every one of them - but they can’t work miracles. Today was about climate change, the hottest UK day on record - EVER! If you don’t believe in climate change ask a firefighter who has been on duty in the last two days what they think about it. Hopefully things calm down now, and we get back to ‘normal’ but there are huge lessons to learn and big decisions to make. Support your local firefighters (especially the West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue ones of course) and be alive to what’s happened today.

"Thanks for reading."

This scene is Strauss Crescent in Maltby on a day when fire services had to cross boundaries around the country to support one another as they struggled to cope with demand. Photo: SYFR