Headlines: July 3rd, 2009

Local council leaders are warning that parks and beauty spots are at risk from wildfires because of the heatwave. With summer temperatures soaring the Local Government Association has released figures showing that when temperatures hit a record 38.3 degrees Celsius in 2003, fire crews had to deal with 100,000 more outdoor fires than in the previous year.

It says this summer’s scorching heat and lower rainfall could cause fields and grassy areas to dry out and become a serious fire risk and it is warning that in urban areas, fires started in parks by people dropping cigarettes could spread to nearby gardens. In more remote areas moors and fells are more likely to catch light naturally and burn out of control.

Warning that in the current conditions fires can spread more rapidly and be more difficult to tackle, it has issued a list of five simple measures people can take to protect themselves and others. Litter, it says, should be disposed of responsibly as loose rubbish can act as fuel for a fire; cigarette ends should not be thrown on the ground or from car windows; garden waste should be gathered up regularly; bonfires should not be lit in windy conditions and everyone should stay vigilant and alert the fire services immediately to any signs of a fire.

Councillor Paul Bettison, who chairs the LGA Environment Board, said: “We’ve all seen the devastating impact wildfires have in other parts of the world. As temperatures soar this summer, fields and parks are going to become drier, turning into tinderboxes waiting to catch fire. Local parks and beauty spots could be destroyed and people’s homes left at serious risk from fires.”