Wildfire Warning As Heat Health Alert Issued Amid Tinder-Dry Conditions

UK officials have issued a “heat health alert” ahead of temperatures rising above 30C this week following a record-breaking month.

The UK Health Security Agency has issued the alert, designed to help healthcare staff manage through periods of extreme temperature that can affect the public, for southern and central England from Tuesday to Saturday, with experts advising people to look out for those who are older or with existing health conditions, and young children.

It comes after a July in which Britain recorded its highest ever temperature, of just above 40C, spurring wildfires that destroyed properties and resulted in the busiest week for London’s fire brigade since Second World War.

Much of the UK is braced for another heatwave, with little rain expected to help relieve the threat of drought which has prompted hosepipe bans and fire warnings.

The Met Office said temperatures are likely to rise into the low to mid-30s in central and southern parts of the UK – but will not be as extreme as the record-breaking heat in July when the thermometer climbed above 40C.

Heatwave thresholds – which are met at different temperatures in different parts of the country – are likely to be hit in much of the UK.

Outside the hottest areas, much of England and Wales and south-east Scotland could see temperatures widely in the high 20s, with a chance of a few spots seeing temperatures into the low 30s, the Met Office said.

Scotland and Northern Ireland will also see temperatures in the high 20s and could reach official heatwave criteria by Friday, the forecasters said.

With the latest heatwave coming after months of low rain, which have left the countryside and urban parks and gardens tinder-dry, households in some areas are being urged not to light fires or have barbecues.

Warmest UK August temperatures.

PA Graphics via PA Graphics/Press Association Images

Essex County Fire and Rescue Service is urging people not to light barbecues or bonfires, or let off fireworks or sky lanterns, after a large blaze which damaged gardens, sheds and trees was started by a chiminea.

The Country Land and Business Association, which represents 28,000 farmers and landowners in England and Wales, has demanded retailers follow the lead of Marks & Spencer and ban the sale of disposable barbecues across the UK this summer to reduce the risk of wildfires in the dry conditions.

The Met Office’s fire severity index, an assessment of how severe a fire could become if one were to start, is very high for most of England and Wales, and will reach “exceptional” for a swathe of England by the weekend.

Two water companies have already announced hosepipe bans and others have warned they may need to follow suit, following the driest eight months from November to June since 1976, and the driest July on record for parts of southern and eastern England.

A visitor to London's Regents Park walks past a portion of parched parkland.
A visitor to London’s Regents Park walks past a portion of parched parkland.

XXXXX via PA Wire/PA Images

Scientists warn that the likelihood of droughts occurring is becoming higher due to climate change, driven by greenhouse gas emissions from burning fossil fuels and other human activities.

Climate change is also making heatwaves more intense, frequent and likely – with last month’s record temperatures made at least 10 times more likely because of global warming, and “virtually impossible” without it, research shows.

The Met Office recently raised the temperatures that have to be reached for an official heatwave for eight English counties, to reflect the warming conditions in the UK.

The Met Office said there is little rain in the forecast, with only the North West likely to see any short-lived showers.



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