Yorkshire firefighters praised for meeting 'unprecedented demand' during heatwave fires
South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue (SYFRS) received 2,195 calls on Tuesday alone, when temperatures passed 40C in the UK for the first time, and the area was one of six where a major incident was declared, but fortunatley there were no deaths.
Firefighters were called to deal with a range of incidents, such as a fierce blaze which destroyed six homes in Woodland Drive, Barnsley, and another fire which tore through three properties in Strauss Crescent, Maltby.
One grassland fire spread to three homes in Kiveton Park, near Rotherham, and wildfires on fields by Sprotbrough Road, in Doncaster, sent up huge plumes of smoke which could be seen for miles.
Area Manager Paul Heffernan said it was one of the busiest weeks he has seen over the last 25 years and firefighters had to leave some grass and field fires to burn, while they prioritised other incidents.
“We have to very carefully prioritise life and property. That's what we do and the other brigades do the same,” he said.
He said the heatwave created “tinder-dry” conditions which meant small fires, started by overheating electrical equipment, cigarettes, barbecues and bonfires, spread quickly and people must remain "super vigilant" in hot conditions.
But he also said that despite the dangers, some fires were also started deliberately.
Mr Heffernan praised the “phenomenal” efforts of everyone who worked on the response, from the front-line firefighters to the SYFRS backroom staff, but said they all realise that climate change will make heatwave fires in the summer and floods in the winter more frequent.
“We know the climate is changing and this week is indicative of that. We are concerned about it,” he said.
“We really do need help from the Government for more resources. Like every public sector organisation, we’re feeling a bit lean.”
It comes after Chief Fire Officer Alex Johnson warned the record-breaking temperatures could be “a sign of things to come”.
“I have worked within the fire and rescue service for almost 24 years and I cannot recall such an unprecedented level of demand, in such difficult conditions,” she said.
“Normally, if we experienced a high demand such as this, we could request support either regionally or nationally – but the difference yesterday was that almost every single fire and rescue service was experiencing the same thing.”
Major fire incidents were also declared in London, Norfolk, Suffolk, Lincolnshire, Leicestershire earlier this week, as firefighters were inudated with thousands of reported fires.
London Fire Brigade (LFB) had its busiest day since the Second World War as record temperatures led to hundreds of fires across the capital, with the service taking 2,670 calls.