London Fire Brigade

Brigade fear further fires in ‘smouldering summer’

02 August 2010

The number of grass fires across London has shot up and London Fire Brigade fears further fires with the hot weather set to continue.

Compared to this time last year, grass fires across London have gone up by 25 per cent. Weather experts recently declared that last month was one of the driest Julys on record, which could, in part, explain the rise in the number of these fires.

Rita Dexter, London Fire Brigade’s Deputy Commissioner, said: “Grass can go up like a tinder box in these dry conditions, which is why we always see a surge in the number of grass fires in the summer. This so called ‘smouldering summer’ will undoubtedly continue unless people take greater care with things like cigarettes and barbecues”.

Grass fires can be set deliberately or started accidentally. Either way they pose a huge risk to wildlife, parkland and even people’s lives. The main causes of accidental grass fires are barbecues, cigarettes, discarded matches and glass bottles, which, when left on dry grass can concentrate the sun’s rays and cause fires. Firefighters advise that barbecues are never left unattended and are completely out after being used. Cigarettes should also be carefully disposed of as they can easily ignite dry grass. Firefighters are particularly concerned about drivers who throw lit cigarettes out of car windows as dry grass verges can easily go up in flames.

The Brigade advises that if you see a grass fire, you shouldn’t attempt to put it out yourself as grass fires can travel very quickly and change direction without warning. You should call 999 immediately and tell the Brigade where the fire is. 

Ends

Notes to editors

Grass fires

  • In the first six months of 2010 there were 1389 grass fires in London, with almost half of those taking place in June alone (there were 543 grass fires in June).
  • The highest number of grass fires in June this year was in Greenwich (121 this year), followed by Hounslow (85 this year) and Barking and Dagenham (81 this year).

For a full breakdown of grass fires by borough, please contact Emma Cullen, in the Brigade’s press off ice on 020 8536 5922 or emma.cullen@london-fire.gov.uk

Grass fire examples:
London’s firefighters have attended two large grass fires over the past few days, with 20 firefighters tackling a fire which damaged over five hectares off grass land on Rainham Road in Wennington on Friday 30th July and another 20 firefighters tackling a fire on Roding Lane North in Woodford Brigade on Sunday 1st August which damaged around two hectares of heathland.

On Saturday 24 July eight fire engines and around 40 firefighters were called to a grass fire on a sports field at Hall Place, Bourne Road in Bexley. Around six hectares of grass, trees, undergrowth and 300 metres of railway embankment were damaged by the fire.

The Brigade was called at 1256 and the fire was under control by 1830. Fire crews from Bexley and surrounding stations attended the incident. The cause of the fire is under investigation.

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