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Temperature passes 40C for first time; London fire brigade warns of ‘huge surge in fires’ – as it happened | Extreme weather


Major incident declared in London following surge in fires

The London fire brigade has declared a major incident in response to a huge surge in fires across the capital today, mayor of London Sadiq Khan has tweeted.

He writes: “This is critical. London Fire is under immense pressure. Please be safe.”

Khan added that he is in touch with the commissioner and will share further updates when these are available.

NEW: London Fire Brigade has just declared a Major Incident in response to a huge surge in fires across the capital today.

This is critical: @LondonFire is under immense pressure. Please be safe.

I’m in touch with the Commissioner and will share updates when I have them.

— Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan (@MayorofLondon) July 19, 2022

In a separate tweet, Khan outlines how to avoid fires, including avoiding barbecuing on grass or balconies, leaving broken bottles or glass on grass (it can start fires), disposing of cigarettes safely and reporting fires as soon as they are seen.


⚠️ Don’t BBQ on grass or balconies
⚠️ Don’t leave broken bottles or glass on the grass (it can start fires)
⚠️ Dispose of cigarettes safely
⚠️ Report a fire as soon as you see one

Don’t take risks. Stay safe in the heat.

— Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan (@MayorofLondon) July 19, 2022

Key events

A summary of today’s developments

  • Met Office data showed that the UK had its first ever day of temperatures over 40C, with 40.3C recorded in Lincolnshire. This followed the hottest ever night recorded, with temperatures failing to dip below 25C in some parts, but relief should arrive shortly in the shape of thunderstorms on Wednesday, the forecaster said.
  • Scotland recorded its highest ever temperature, reaching 34.8C in Charterhall in the Scottish Borders, according to provisional Met Office figures. It exceeded the previous record of 32.9C recorded in Greycrook on 9 August 2003.
  • At least 13 people have died going into open water during the heatwave period, of which at least four were under the age of 17. Water safety organisations are concerned the toll may climb as schools break for summer holidays.
  • The London fire brigade declared a major incident in response to a huge surge in fires across the capital. Firefighters described blazes tearing through homes and buildings in London as “absolute hell” with residents evacuated and people taken to hospital. Residents were evacuated from their homes in the village of Wennington, east London, while flames destroyed buildings and ravaged nearby fields. Two people were also taken to hospital suffering smoke inhalation following a fire in Dagenham.
  • Greater Manchester police are appealing for information about fires suspected to have been started deliberately on the moorland behind Dovestones reservoir.
  • UK transport secretary says Britain must ‘drive up’ railway standards. Grant Shapps said the Victorian-era infrastructure “wasn’t built to withstand this type of temperature”. He added these events will occur more frequently, and it will take decades to upgrade existing lines to be more resilient.
  • London’s ambulance service is experiencing a sustained demand for 999 and 111 services. The service said it was answering 400 calls an hour as it sees “an increase in the number of patients experiencing heat exposure”.

After a major incident was declared in South Yorkshire, Doncaster Council said in a statement: “There have been a number of fires in Doncaster today due to the extremely high temperatures.

“Some of these are ongoing and we are continuing to work with agencies across the borough and also colleagues across South Yorkshire to respond to and manage these incidents”

The council said power cuts have also caused problems in the region.

It said: “There have also been a number of power outages, which are being caused by the high temperatures today too. Northern Powergrid are working hard to restore the power, and most properties are now back online.

“We are working with colleagues across the council to ensure any vulnerable people affected are able to access the support they need.”

A major incident has been declared in South Yorkshire after firefighters were called to multiple fires, including a number involving blazes spreading to houses.

The most serious blaze on Tuesday afternoon was in Barnsley when a row of houses in the Moorland Avenue area was consumed by flames.

Barnsley councillor Kevin Osborne said on Twitter he thought six houses had been involved in the incident as he posted dramatic footage of one home being devastated by the blaze.

Local residents launched a crowdfunding page to help those involved, saying on JustGiving: “They’ve managed to contain the fire but the houses are completely destroyed. People have been left with nothing.

“Let’s show them the Barnsley community spirit and raise them a bit of much needed cash, whether it be short-term accommodation or to help them rebuild. Thanks for your support.”

Residents in Northamptonshire have been urged by police to stop releasing floating lanterns due to the fire risk.

Tonight we’ve unbelievably had reports of ‘Floating sky lanterns’ (also referred to as Chinese Lanterns) in the Earls Barton area. These pose a HUGE fire risk all year round but tonight, it is quite frankly reckless and endangering life, wildlife, crops & property. PLEASE STOP! pic.twitter.com/PycedFTSJ9

— Northamptonshire Fire & Rescue (@northantsfire) July 19, 2022

Leicestershire Fire and Rescue has stood down a major incident in the region when demand for the fire service reached overwhelming levels this afternoon due to the heatwave.

We are now standing down from a major incident. We have sufficient level of resources back in the organisation to respond business as usual. We would like to thank everyone for their support, it has been much appreciated. #SaferPeopleSaferPlaces pic.twitter.com/29otDJbFl0

— Leicestershire Fire and Rescue Service (@LeicsFireRescue) July 19, 2022

The home secretary, Priti Patel, said she had been updated on the national fire situation.

“With dangerous fires burning across the country, I continue to urge the public to follow all safety advice from their local fire service, and stay safe,” she added.

“I pay tribute to the professionalism and skill of our fire services, who are working in difficult conditions to protect lives and communities.

“Please continue to follow all advice from your local emergency services.”

The heavens are beginning to open across the country, and the Met Office has just released its forecast for tomorrow – cloudy with outbreaks of rain. It will be warm, but it goes without saying that there will be a big drop-off in temperature compared with today’s unprecedented heat.

Rather cloudy for most with outbreaks of rain clearing gradually eastwards Wednesday morning 🌦️

Becoming drier for many but showers developing over southern parts later. Still very warm for most but temperatures well down on Tuesday 🌡️ pic.twitter.com/y9O8MLddBE

— Met Office (@metoffice) July 19, 2022

The Metropolitan police has released an update on the fires that have been burning across London, saying some are “over widespread areas and will require an ongoing presence through the night”.

Praising the London fire brigade for “working incredibly hard … in the most challenging conditions”, the Met said: “Officers will also be patrolling open spaces in the coming hours to ensure that Londoners are following the LFB advice to keep us all safe.

“This includes: Do not have a barbecue or bonfire tonight. Do not leave broken bottles or glass on the ground. Dispose of cigarettes safely.”

The Premier Inn in Wennington, east London, lost power for about an hour, with a fire official telling the PA news agency the blaze might have hit the main power line.

Residents at the Premier Inn were later advised to find alternative accommodation for the evening, while a rest centre has been set up at Hornchurch sports centre, where air mattresses have been provided.

Andrew Blake-Herbert, Havering council’s chief executive, said: “We need people to avoid the Wennington area if at all possible and need local people to keep doors and windows closed to protect from smoke and ash.”

The London fire brigade has said the fire in Wembley is now under control.

Dave Swallow, of Hereford and Worcestershire fire brigade, is part of a group of nearly 50 wildfire tactical advisers spread out across the UK.

He said: “We can be requested when needed to provide advice and support either remotely or on the ground.

“We’ve been aware that today and yesterday particularly could be potentially very difficult days, so there’s a lot of background work that goes into that to make sure we are fully briefed on things like the wind direction and what the humidity is going to be like.

“They greatly affect fire spread and how it’s going to develop as well.”

Nicola Davis

Nicola Davis

Experts have warned that heatwaves can affect mood and mental health, urging people to practice self-compassion and take care with medications.

“Extremely hot temperatures can affect our mood,” said Stephen Buckley, the head of information at the mental health charity Mind. “For example, you may be struggling with sleeping difficulties at the moment or finding it challenging to build physical activity or exercise into your day – both of which can affect our mental health.”

Buckley added that heatwaves may also make people more anxious about the climate emergency.

“Concerns about the climate can have a big impact on our wellbeing, so try to be kind to yourself if you’re finding things difficult. If possible, adjust your daily routine to prioritise your mental and physical health, and remember it’s OK not to be as productive as usual,” he added, noting that where reasonable, employers should offer flexibility around working hours, responsibilities, and place of work.

Buckley said it was also important to consider the interaction between heat and medications.

“Some psychiatric medications, including some antipsychotics, and in rare cases some antidepressants, may increase our sensitivity to sunlight,” he said.

“This can also happen if you take St John’s wort. Some antidepressants can cause us to sweat more or to experience muscle weakness, so it’s important to take extra care to protect ourselves and stay hydrated in this hot and sunny weather.”

At least 34 sites today exceeded the UK’s previous national record of 38.7C (101.6F), the Met Office has said.

Janet Hickey, from Wennington, who has terminal pancreatic cancer, said she was forced to leave all her cancer drugs behind as people were evacuated.

“I’ve got all my cancer drugs in the fridge,” said Hickey, 70.

Her husband, Patrick Hickey, 71, said: “We had to leave everything. We’re hoping against hope that our house is still there.”

Janet Hickey said they felt “devastated”: “We’ve been living there 50 years. I’m terminally ill so it’s not great to lose all that. I’m also an artist and all my paintings are there.”

A rescue centre has been set up at the Wennington Premier Inn for residents who have been evacuated.

Riminta Maceikaite, 38, and her son Nikas Janulevicius, 13, said their neighbours’ homes had burned down but as far as they could see from aerial shots on TV, their house was still standing.

Maceikaite said they were “very anxious” about their home, adding: “When you look on a camera, when it shows you from the sky, it just freaks you out.”

Nikas said: “Our house is on the news and it’s the only house that hasn’t been burned so far.

“Asked if they had seen or spoken to other residents, he said: ‘I saw my neighbour – he was OK; he was helping to put out the fires.’”

The pair have been trying to find their pet dog and cat after fleeing their home.

A group of people were standing by a roundabout off the A13 with horses on leads as the fire in Wennington spread.

Lizzie Pittman, from Aveley in Essex, who works at some stables by the roundabout, said she was looking after five horses who had been removed from their stables in Wennington, which had burnt down.

She told the PA news agency: “This is your worst nightmare. You can see it getting closer and closer. People are losing their houses but that’s bricks and mortar. People are losing their livestock.”

Local residents could also be heard talking to firefighters about removing other livestock from the path of the fire, with one man directing a horse trailer to pick up some pigs.

Sam Jones

Few stereotypes irk Spaniards quite as much as the ridiculous anglosajón idea that the country takes to its collective couch every afternoon for a three-hour siesta.

Unlike the UK, however, Spain does pride itself on knowing how to cope with the heat, especially in Madrid and farther south. People know when to walk in the shade, when to keep the persianas (roller shutters) down, and when to raise and lower the toldos (awnings) to keep the sun’s rays from boring into flats and houses.

They also know that the long lunch break, between 2pm and 5pm, was originally intended to spare agricultural workers the worst of the furnace heat of July and August, and that an alfresco dinner is a far more pleasant proposition at 10pm or 11pm than at 6pm or 7pm.

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