London Fire Brigade

Carelessness leads to spike in grass fires

02 July 2010

Following a spate of grass fires across the capital, London’s firefighters are warning people to take extra care during the hot weather.

Andy Hickmott, London Fire Brigade’s Assistant Commissioner for Community Fire Safety, said: “With the hot weather set to continue we’re bracing ourselves for a surge in the number of grass fires. It’s extremely frustrating for the fire service because these fires are easily preventable.

If you’re disposing of a cigarette or barbecue, please do so carefully. In this hot weather a small spark can spread like wildfire and cause devastation”.

The number of grass fires across the capital rose by over 30% from May to June this year. The Met Office has reported yesterday that Britain has experienced the driest first six months of the year for more than 80 years, which could account for the sudden rise in grass fires from May to June.

Grass fires can be started accidentally or deliberately, either way they can cause a huge amount of damage. They can quickly get out of control, especially during hot, dry weather, and can spread to surrounding areas, posing a risk to properties, wildlife and even people’s lives.

Andy Hickmott also commented on the amount of time firefighters spend tackling grass fires: “Grass fires can be extremely time consuming. Just the other day 20 firefighters spent around 18 hours at the scene of one in Kingston. It may well have been caused by someone carelessly dropping a cigarette butt.

When firefighters are tackling these fires, they aren’t available to attend other emergencies or do vital community safety work and training”.

The most common causes of grass fires are discarded cigarettes which can ignite dry grass. Andy Hickmott urged drivers to be considerate: “Please don’t throw cigarettes out of car windows, they can easily cause fires on grass verges – you’d be amazed how quickly these fires can spread”. Another common cause is glass bottles which can concentrate the suns rays onto dry grass and shrubbery.

London Fire Brigade’s advice on preventing grass fires:

  • Never leave camp fires or barbeques unattended and extinguish them properly after you have finished using them. 
  • Clear away bottles, glasses and any broken glass to avoid them magnifying the sun and starting a fire. 
  • Dispose of smoking materials such as cigarettes safely. 
  • Explain to children the dangers of playing with and lighting fires.
  • If you see a fire, don't attempt to put it out yourself as grass fires can travel very quickly and change direction without warning. Call 999, and if you can, stay around so that you can direct firefighters to the scene - but only if it is safe to do so.

Ends

Notes to editors

For further information on preventing grass fires please go to www.london-fire.gov.uk/grassfires.asp

This year, so far, the three boroughs in London with the highest number of grass fires are Greenwich, Bromley and Hounslow. Please contact Emma Cullen (020 8536 5922) for a breakdown of grass fires by London borough.

Some examples of recent grass fires:

Feltham – grass fire

Four fire engines and around 20 firefighters were called to a grass fire on Dudley Road, Feltham on Wednesday 30 June. The fire destroyed around two hectares of grassland.

The Brigade was called at 1405 and the fire was under control by 1542. Firefighters from Feltham and surrounding fire stations attended the incident.

Kingston – grass fire

Four fire engines and around 20 firefighters were called to a grass fire on Kingston Hill, Kingston last night. Around one hectare of woodland and shrubbery was damaged by the blaze.

The Brigade was called at 2012. Firefighters remained at the scene until 1400 on Wednesday 30 June. Firefighters from New Malden, Sutton and surrounding stations attended the incident.

Mitcham Common – grass fire

On Monday 28 June four fire engines and around 20 firefighters were called to a grass fire on Mitcham Common. Around one hectare of shrubland and a number of trees was damaged by the blaze.

The Brigade was called at 1208 and the fire was under control 1257. Firefighters from Wimbledon, Clapham and Croydon fire stations were at the scene.

Rainham – grass fire

On Monday 28 June four fire engines and around 20 firefighters were called to a grass fire on Surridge Close, Rainham. The blaze damaged around 6 hectares of grass and shrubland.

The Brigade was called at 1815 and the fire was under control by 1936. Firefighters from Wennington and surrounding stations attended the incident.

Snaresbrook – grass fire

On Monday 28 June four fire engines and around 20 firefighters were called to a grass fire on Snaresbrook Road, Snaresbrook. Around two hectares of grass and woodland was damaged by the fire.

The Brigade was called at 0154 and the fire was under control by 0252.