Heatwave piles pressure on emergency services

Fire devastates properties in Kenton.
Photo credit: London Fire Brigade.

As the UK sweltered on the hottest day ever recorded, the emergency services were under enormous pressure to respond as demand reached unprecedented levels. Data published by the Fire Brigades Union showed that one third of fire and rescue services across the UK declared a major incident in response to the heatwave.

London Fire Brigade had its busiest day since the second world war as it dealt with 1,146 incidents and its control room took 2,670 calls in just 24 hours. The largest blaze was in Wennington which destroyed six properties as well as farm buildings and vehicles.

London Ambulance Service took over 13,000 999 calls over the two days of the heatwave on 18 and 19 July. This equates to one every 13 seconds. This compares with an average of 5,500 calls on a very busy day. Brian Jordan, Director of 999 Operations said, “I would like to thank the public for their help and support over the last few days and to publicly recognise the hard work and commitment of our staff and volunteers.”

Dave Walton, Deputy Chief Fire Officer for West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service took to Twitter to share his experience of responding to the heatwave. He said, “It was a game changer and took us to a completely new level. Fires were spreading much more quickly than before. Usually when a big fire happens you can call on neighbouring fire services to help, but not this time. Everyone was busy and completely stacked out. This tells us we need a fundamental rethink about how we resource our fire and rescue service nationally, so we can be prepared for this.”

South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service also declared a major incident. Chief Fire Officer Chris Kirby praised crews after the unprecedented heatwave fires. He said, “I want to pay tribute to and pass on huge thanks to firefighters, officers and control room staff who dealt with an unprecedented surge in demand for our services yesterday afternoon. Also, to the support teams from across the service who helped with vehicle issues and logistics, delivering of supplies to incidents and provided general support.”