40 outdoor fires a day as heatwave continues
Firefighters are being called out to up to 40 fires in the open a day as the heatwave goes on, it has been revealed.
West Midlands Fire Service said crews were called out to 479 outdoor fires in 12 days – between June 20 and July 1.
It is a 59 per cent increase from the same period last year, when the service only attended 301.
It includes fires on grassland and heathland and bonfires getting out of control.
Neighbouring Staffordshire Fire Service is also being kept busy with 350 ‘secondary fires’ happening in June – including fires in the open.
The latest blaze was in a wheat field at the side of the M6 near Junction 13 Stafford South on Monday.
The ‘fast-moving’ fire spread over the size of 35 football pitches sending plumes of smoke billowing into the air that could be seen for miles around.
WATCH footage of the Stafford blaze:
More than 20 firefighters were called to the scene. Drivers were warned about smoke drifting on to the M6 south of Stafford after more than 30 acres caught fire in Acton Trussell at about 5.30pm on Monday evening.
A Staffordshire Fire and Rescue spokesman said it was not known how the fire started adding: “We received calls at 5.35pm to reports of fire in the fields just off Junction 13 of the M6.
“We had four crews there from Staffordshire Fire and Rescue and West Midlands Fire. A lot of people were seeing smoke from the road but we sent more man power. One field of wheat was on fire and it was about 700m by 300m.
“It was fast moving but the first two crews were holding it in line while they waited for the other crews to extinguish it.”
The fire service has now warned people of the dangers of fires outside, particularly as the temperatures soar.
Pete Wilson, head of community safety at West Midlands Fire Service, said: “We obviously want those who can to enjoy the weather, but remind them of the dangers it can bring.
“From being sensible with barbecues, bonfires and near open water, to carefully disposing of cigarettes and matches – there’s a host of steps we can all take to stay safe.
"It’s all too easy to get distracted when you’re having a good time with family and friends. It means you can soon forget how many drinks you’ve had, or that you’ve left something cooking away on the barbecue or in the kitchen.”
Other blazes in the area include The Staffordshire Moorlands which has suffered three fires in three days last week, caused by the sizzling weather.
The first grass fire began between Thorncliffe and Shawfields on Saturday evening, which more than 40 firefighters tackled, followed by a fire at nearby Lady Edge on Sunday.
Glyn Luhzny, from the fire service, said the Lady Edge blaze was mainly top vegetation – a mix of dry heather, grass – but the terrain and changing wind directions made it harder to fight.
Crews from the West Midlands also continue to help colleagues in Manchester where a major grassland fire has been raging across Saddleworth Moor. Crews from the Midlands have been called in to relieve other crews from Manchester tackling the fire.
Other fires include a blaze started in Hickman Park, Bilston, Wolverhampton, on Monday and a fire started on a path in Rushall, Walsall, off Station Road, on Sunday.
Emma Salter, a meteorologist from the Met Office, said the sunny weather is set to continue until at least the end of the month.
During the heatwave people are also being encouraged to look out for vulnerable relatives, friends and neighbours who might not be able to cope with the soaring temperatures.
Councillor Ruth Buttery, cabinet member for health and wellbeing at Ddley Council , said: “There are lots of great things to do in our parks, nature reserves and green spaces but we want people to stay safe too.
“We’re asking people to take shade in the midday sun as much as possible, wear suntan lotion and cover up with t-shirts and hats when outside to avoid burning.
“I would also like to remind people of the hidden dangers of swimming in outdoor spaces and would urge people who fancy a dip to head to our leisure centres where the water is safe and lifeguards are on duty.”