Warning over major fire risk until ‘tinder dry’ Essex is dampened with rain

Essex Fire and Rescue is warning of major fire risks while “everything is still tinder dry” as it revealed it had 12 times the volume of incidents over the course of two days when temperatures hit 40C.

But while temperatures have dropped the Essex fire and crime commissioner is warning that substance and fields are exceptionally dry and until it rains substantially a high risk remains across the county.

Police, crime and fire commissioner Roger Hirst said at an update to councillors on July 21: “The extreme heat may have passed but everything is still tinder dry.

“Please put out the message about being particularly careful around barbecues, around careless use of fire, smoking materials and really do everything we possibly can to stop there being any further increase because until it rains properly it’s going to remain a high risk environment.”

During the two days when temperature records were broken with highs of around 40C the service received over 750 calls and responded to well over 350 incidents, he revealed.

That level compares with a usual call weight of around 60 per day.

He said: “We were stretched, all fire and rescue services across the country were stretched and I think that is in itself something which is unusual.

“Normally if we are at a high intensity high volume state we will be able to call on others but actually we were being called on particularly by the London fire brigade whilst having to deal with our own issues.

“So it was an national event. And we therefore we were really pulled in all directions.”

It had to deal with a Monday peak of 20 simultaneous incidents and a Tuesday peak of 26 simultaneous incidents.

“At points it had a six pump event in Cheshunt a four-pump incident in Heybridge, a five-pump incident in Colchester and a six-pump event in Canvey Island.

He said: “Fourteen of our colleagues services across the country declared a major incident. We didn’t and I thank the department and the chief fire officer for this.

“I think it was because we saw it coming, read the weather forecast and actually prepared well a week in advance.

“So we saw it building up over time and we had our planning and contingency arrangements in place which meant that actually all calls where a response was needed received the response which I think is a major achievement.”

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Piers Meyler

Local Democracy Reporter