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UK weather: extreme heat warning in place for England and Wales as near 500% increase in wildfires reported – live | Extreme weather

Near 500% increase in fires compared to 2021, says fire service

Dorset and Wiltshire fire service says there has been a near 500% increase in wildfires during the first 10 days of August this year compared to 2021.

Jason Moncrieff, area manager for the service, told the BBC’s Today program:

It is a massive difference. The first 10 days of August this year versus last year there were 492% more of these types of fires. So that’s field fires, grass fires, heathland fires – all those sorts of fires in the open, a 492% increase this year.

He also said a fire on Friday on the Studland peninsula near Purbeck could have been avoided. He said:

Amazingly, yesterday’s fire looks as though it was started by a disposable barbecue. There can’t be many people in Britain who don’t know the advice at the moment is not to bring a barbecue, do not use a barbecue, especially disposable barbecues at these places such as Studland Heath. That’s our message, bring a picnic – don’t bring a barbecue.

It’s under control, it’s a lot better condition than it was yesterday [but] we’re probably going to be carrying on operations throughout the remainder of the day. How much longer I can’t really tell.

We’ve managed to put in what we call an overland main to provide water to the scene of the operation. We’re in a much better situation than we were at the end of yesterday.

Key events

What happens when drought is declared by the UK government?

Parts of England were declared to be in drought on Friday. My colleague Tom Levitt has taken a look at what this means, and how long it may last.

The Environment Agency (EA) declared the whole of the UK is in a pre-drought stage earlier in the week. Now that regional droughts are declared we can expect more restrictions on water use by households, and if conditions worsen, on businesses too.

The decision comes after areas of southern and eastern England recorded less than 10% of average July rainfall, while for England as a whole it was the driest since 1935. The situation has continued into August, with south-east England receiving no rainfall so far this month.

Fire services in the south of England have been left “massively stretched” by this summer’s heatwave.

Jason Moncrieff, area manager at Dorset and Wiltshire fire service, told the Today programme:

We are massively stretched but we are largely an on-call service. Forty-five of our 50 stations have an on-call element – ​​firefighters that provide cover as well as a normal day job and they have a massive commitment to the service. We’re also trying to use our partners as much as possible.

So, in particular, Hampshire, Devon and Somerset – we are working in partnership, we can mobilize each other’s resources so we can send the nearest resource, no matter which county it’s in.

Near 500% increase in fires compared to 2021, says fire service

Dorset and Wiltshire fire service says there has been a near 500% increase in wildfires during the first 10 days of August this year compared to 2021.

Jason Moncrieff, area manager for the service, told the BBC’s Today program:

It is a massive difference. The first 10 days of August this year versus last year there were 492% more of these types of fires. So that’s field fires, grass fires, heathland fires – all those sorts of fires in the open, a 492% increase this year.

He also said a fire on Friday on the Studland peninsula near Purbeck could have been avoided. He said:

Amazingly, yesterday’s fire looks as though it was started by a disposable barbecue. There can’t be many people in Britain who don’t know the advice at the moment is not to bring a barbecue, do not use a barbecue, especially disposable barbecues at these places such as Studland Heath. That’s our message, bring a picnic – don’t bring a barbecue.

It’s under control, it’s a lot better condition than it was yesterday [but] we’re probably going to be carrying on operations throughout the remainder of the day. How much longer I can’t really tell.

We’ve managed to put in what we call an overland main to provide water to the scene of the operation. We’re in a much better situation than we were at the end of yesterday.

Rachel Hall

Making small changes, such as spotting leaks early and showering less, can make a big difference to save water during a drought.

After weeks without rain, the grass is parched, the ground is cracked and a drought has officially been declared across eight areas of England.

Water companies are expected to impose restrictions but what more can individuals do to curb water use?

Which areas currently have hosepipe bans?

Map of hosepipe bans in England and Wales

Mass crop failures expected in England

Helena Horton

Experts have warned of widespread crop failures across England, as charities and farmers criticized water companies for dithering over hosepipe bans despite drought being declared across much of the country.

On Friday, the Environment Agency classified eight of the 14 areas of England as being in a drought. Despite this, water companies, including Anglian Water, Southern Water and South West Water have not brought in hosepipe bans.

Leaked documents seen by the Guardian from a meeting of the National Drought Group show concerning figures about the state of farming in England.

Half of the potato crop is expected to fail as it cannot be irrigated, and even crops that are usually drought-tolerant, such as maize, have been failing.

The group was told “irrigation options are diminishing with reservoirs being emptied fast”, and losses of 10-50% are expected for crops including carrots, onions, sugar beet, apples and hops. Milk production is also down nationally because of a lack of food for cows, and wildfires are putting large areas of farmland at risk.

Farmers are deciding whether to drill crops for next year, and there are concerns that many will decide not to, with dire consequences for the 2023 harvest. Cattle and other livestock are expected to be slaughtered early at lower weights because it is likely that farmers will run out of feed for them in winter.

One of the driest areas is East Anglia, which is also home to much of England’s farming, including more than two-thirds of its sugar beet crop and a third of its potato crop.

England drought: how the country has been affected – video

Which areas are officially experiencing a drought?

The Environment Agency has moved into drought in eight of its 14 areas:

Documents seen by the Guardian show the Environment Agency expects that a further two areas will move into drought later in August. These are Yorkshire and West Midlands.

The group met earlier this summer to discuss the lack of rainfall and decided to put the country in “prolonged dry weather status”, the first of four emergency dry weather stages, and one step before drought. Now, the country has been tipped into that second stage.

This means water rationing may take place across the country, with fewer barriers for water companies who wish to ban customers from using hosepipes and washing the car with tap water. More severe measures can also be put in place at this stage, including banning the use of sprinklers and the cleaning of buildings, vehicles and windows.

Extreme heat warning in place for England and Wales

Good morning. Drought was officially declared across large parts of England yesterday and the Met Office’s ‘extreme heat’ warning remains in place for much of England and Wales.

With temperatures expected at around 34C in some parts of the country, the Met Office is warning of an increased risk of fires as well as adverse impacts on health for both vulnerable people and the wider population.

It adds that “some delays to road, rail and air travel are possible, with potential for welfare issues for those who experience prolonged delays”.

While the amber heat warning remains in place until the end of Sunday, other parts of the UK could experience intense thunderstorms and possible flooding when it ends.

The Met office said the yellow storm warnings will begin in Scotland and Northern Ireland on Sunday afternoon and spread to England and Wales on Monday.

Forecasters said the storms were likely to be isolated and intense bringing 50mm of rain in some places and the possibility of hail and frequent lightning.

We’ll bring you the latest updates on this story throughout the day.

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