West Midlands Fire Service races to deal with more than 500 calls in just over 24 hours

A warning of the “exceptional” risk of wildfires has been issued as West Midlands Fire Service reels from almost 600 call-outs in just over a day.

Temperatures in the West Midlands are set to reach 30C every day up until Sunday, with the first day of heat resulting in an increase in calls to West Midlands Fire Service.

West Midlands Fire Service received 570 calls between 9am on Wednesday and 10am Thursday.

Firefighters were called out to fires on the M6, grasslands fires and even a blaze in a garden shed.

Most recently, Buckpool Nature Reserve, in Brierley Hill, was seen alight.

The fire was out on Wednesday but the resident reported it was still "smouldering" due to the heat on Thursday.

On the M6, one lane will need to be resurfaced after a van caught fire early on Thursday, resulting in long delays for travellers.

The blaze broke out on the northbound carriageway between Junctions 13 and 14, which both serve Stafford, at around 7.50am.

Kelly Whitmore, group manager at West Midlands Fire Service fire control, said: "Since Wednesday morning from around 9am to 10am Thursday we have had 570 calls.

"On a standard day at this time in previous years, it would be a couple hundred.

"If we were to look back to July, we received 2,000 calls across two days.

"That gives us an indication of the increase of calls we can expect.

"We have brought in extra staff and rely on buddy arrangements with other fire control rooms taking some calls too."

A number of other fires have seen large plumes of black pour smoke into the air in the region.

Meanwhile in Shropshire, crews from Market Drayton, Whitchurch, Shrewsbury, Prees and Wem scrambled to tackle a combine harvester fire near Wem.

Elsewhere, crews from Hereford & Worcester Fire and Rescue used off-road vehicles to assist a farmer to extinguish a combine harvester fire as well as a blaze on open land that had affected a 40,000 square metre area of standing crops in Tenbury Wells.

The Fire Brigade Union has warned the next few days could be deadly as temperatures soar with more wildfires feared.

FBU representative for the region Kevin Bough said: “It could be really dangerous. Wildfires in fields are lot more dangerous for firefighters because there is a lot less water around than in the city.”

He claimed numbers of firefighters had been reduced substantially in the last decade and were in danger of being “overstretched”, a claim disputed by West Midlands Fire Service.

In addition to the fire risks, water company bosses have been urged to impose an England-wide hosepipe ban to avoid the worst effects of drought on rivers and wildlife.

Conservationists said action to reduce water use and pollution is needed to help the natural world, which has been hit by months of little rainfall combined with heatwaves.

The extreme conditions have left landscapes parched with wildfires breaking out at wildlife-rich nature reserves and aquatic nature endangered by concentrated levels of pollutants in low-flowing rivers, the Wildlife Trusts said.

Ali Morse, water policy manager for The Wildlife Trusts, said: "Nature is really struggling with extreme weather, and we need to act now to ensure our parched landscapes and rivers – the natural environment that provides us with food and water – are more resilient in the future.

"It is critical to create more space for nature to keep land from drying out and give support to landowners for projects, such as beaver releases, that help ecosystems to recover.

"Water bosses should unite and impose a country-wide hosepipe ban to reduce non-essential use and avoid the worst impacts of drought on rivers and wildlife, rather than relying on more damaging measures later.

"Water companies must also invest in water storage infrastructure, tackle leaks, and improve water efficiency – it’s a scandal that so much water is wasted every day.

"Government must ensure that new homes are water-efficient and bring in universal water metering to help all customers limit their water use."

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