Firefighters are urging London’s councils to ban the use of disposable barbecues in public spaces as they fear a spike in grass fires as people bask in temperatures hotter than Ibiza.
Forecasters are predicting Britain could see weather as warm as 34C over the coming days, which poses a very real risk of grass fires.
London Fire Brigade has already attended more than 1,400 grass fires across the city this year.
Hounslow has seen the most grass fires so far in 2020 with crews attending 88 in the borough. Croydon and Hillingdon closely followed with 85. Back in 2018, London saw record numbers of grass fires, including the biggest one ever tackled by the Brigade at Wanstead Flats, which took more than 200 firefighters four days to bring under control. Crews are keen to prevent a repeat this year so are calling for all London Councils to introduce a ban on barbecues, which can easily start fires on dry grass.
The Brigade’s Deputy Commissioner Richard Mills said: “Barbecuing on dry grass is thoughtless and reckless and can easily be the cause of a significant fire, which isn’t something you want on your conscience.
“We understand a barbecue ban can be hard to enforce and many councils already have one in place, but we need our partners to do whatever they can to help us protect our city’s open spaces from devastating blazes.
“It’s not just barbecues that cause grass fires – we also need people to stop putting lives at risk by carelessly dropping cigarettes or matches on dry grass and stop leaving their rubbish around as glass bottles can also start fires by magnifying the sun’s rays and starting a fire.
“There is likely to be a prolonged spell of hot weather and for the sake of our city and of our firefighters – who have to work in sweltering temperatures to tackle these blazes – it’s time people listened to our warnings.
“All it takes is one inconsiderate act and a huge area of grass can go up in minutes.”
The Brigade is asking members of the public to remain vigilant and call 999 as soon as they see any smouldering as grass fires can quickly get out of control.
As the hot weather continues, another concern is that residents may risk their safety for a cooling swim.
London had the fourth-highest number of accidental drownings in England last year, so the Brigade is also reminding people to take care around water throughout the summer.
Crews have already attended more than 40 water-related incidents during lockdown so people are urged to understand the risks and how easy it can be to get into difficulty.
There is a risk of cold water shock, even in summer, which can cause your body to go into shock and causes panic, anxiety, disorientation and loss of muscular control which makes you gasp for air and as a result, inhale water.
Deputy Commissioner Mills added: “We don’t want to worry people or spoil their enjoyment of summer – we want everyone to enjoy the glorious weather in a safe and responsible manner.”
The Brigade’s tips on preventing grass fires are as follows:
- Don’t use disposable barbecues at all in public spaces during prolonged hot weather
- Dispose of smoking materials such as cigarettes and matches safely
- Clear away bottles, glasses and any broken glass to avoid them magnifying the sun and starting a fire
- Explain to children the dangers of playing with and lighting fires
For more information, go to www.london-fire.gov.uk