Last updated: 06/07/2023, 5:28 PM

Firefighters issue urgent warning after London’s ‘biggest ever grass fire’

16/07/2018 11:28
Safety warnings

The London Fire Brigade has today issued an urgent safety warning following the largest grass fire in its history and a series of other grass fires across the capital. Firefighters are concerned that there will be further incidents if the public doesn’t take greater care during the heatwave.

London Fire Commissioner, Dany Cotton, said:

“This weekend we dealt with the largest grass fire in our history, as well as a range of other serious fires on grassland. The ground is extremely dry at the moment and grassland and parks will act like a tinderbox when exposed to even the smallest of sparks.

“I never thought I’d say this but we are praying for rain.

“We are calling on the public to take steps to prevent grass fires: don’t drop cigarettes or matches on dry ground or out of car windows; don’t have barbecues on dry grass or parks and don’t leave glass bottles out as they can concentrate the sun’s rays and start a blaze.

“Grass fires spread like lightening so if you see dry grass smouldering, please call 999 and report it immediately so that firefighters can deal with it and stop it from spreading.”

The Wanstead blaze, which was so extensive it can be defined as a wildfire, broke out on grassland at 16:05 on Sunday (15 July) at Wanstead Flats, close to Epping Forest in east London. At the height of the fire, over 100 hectares of grass was alight, which is roughly the same size as 100 football pitches.

Over 220 firefighters from fire stations across London attended, with over 40 fire engines at the scene at the height of the incident. Fifteen fire engines and around 100 firefighters remain at the scene today (Monday 16 July) to saturate the area and ensure the fire is under control. Fires on peatland can present a challenge as the fire can travel below ground. Crews are expected to be on scene for a number of hours.

Grass fires this weekend

  • Fifteen fire engines and 100 firefighters attended a large grass fire in Feltham on Saturday afternoon
  • Fifteen fire engines attended a grass fire in Ockendon in Essex on Sunday, London Fire Brigade sent three engines to assist Essex crews
  • Four fire engines attended a grass fire in Woodford Green on Sunday afternoon
  • Five engines attended a grass fire in Richmond last night

London Fire Brigade’s grass fire statistics

  • 821 grass fires attended so far in 2018
  • 12,208 grass fires attended in previous five years
  • Only 58 grass fires since 2013 have required four or more fire engines – large grass fires in predominantly urban areas like London are extremely unusual

The Brigade’s tips on preventing grass fires are as follows:

  • Never leave camp fires or barbecues 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