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Fire chief’s plea for help from public as crews face further wildfire pressure

Firefighters tackling a series of fires that broke out in fields along Weybourne Road
Photo: KAREN BETHELL

Firefighters tackling a series of fires that broke out in fields along Weybourne Road Photo: KAREN BETHELL

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Fire bosses battling to deal with a surge in wildfires fear Norfolk’s firefighters will face another very difficult week, with temperatures set to rise further.

Stuart Ruff, new deputy chief fire officer for Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service, with chief fire officer David Ashworth Pic Norfolk County CouncilStuart Ruff, new deputy chief fire officer for Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service, with chief fire officer David Ashworth Pic Norfolk County Council

And, with the school holidays starting - which historically sees a spike in deliberately started fires - people have been urged not to put lives at risk in tinderbox dry conditions.

David Ashworth, Norfolk’s chief fire officer, said it had been a challenging time for firefighters, but that they would “keep going”.

He said: “A lot of the crews are going from one fire to another and that is tiring for the whole-time staff, who are there for nine or fifteen hours at a time.

“And for the retained firefighters, it is keeping them away from their families and their employers, so we are grateful to them for their understanding.”

With temperatures forecast to rise further, a meeting today will help figure out how to manage in the weeks ahead, but Paul Seaman, duty group manager is expecting a tough week.

He said: “The message we’ve had is that it’s looking to be 30 degrees on most days in the week ahead and with high humidity, that is going to make it arduous for our firefighters. There’s no real prospect of rain and the conditions are so dry.

“We are anticipating being very busy and we’d urge people to be as vigilant as possible. If they see a fire, then report it to us as quickly as possible, so we can put it out as quickly as possible.”

The weekend saw a number of fires which had been started accidentally, but also a number which had been started deliberately.

Mr Seaman said: “Given the sort of week we are anticipating, we’d also ask the public to take our advice and not have any bonfires or campfires and to discard cigarettes carefully.”

Mr Ashcroft also issued a plea for people to act sensibly to help his crews cope.

He said: “With the summer holidays, historically that’s a time when we see an increase in deliberately started fires.

“That puts my crews at risk and puts other people at risk at a time when there is a significant influx of visitors coming into the county.”

Norfolk Fire and Rescue service has said it wants to avoid calling the army for help, as happened last month during fires on moorland near Manchester.

Busy weekend for firefighters

A busy weekend saw firefighters dealing with wildfires, building blazes and a caravan fire.

Fire crews were called to grass fires on Mousehold Heath four times, while there were other fires in the open or on crops across Norfolk.

That included fires at Pentney, Gorleston, Great Yarmouth, Harleston, Bodham, Thetford, Caston, Snettisham, West Acre, Ferfield, Pudding Norton and Aylsham.

Firefighters also attended a number of false alarms triggered by bonfires, despite fire chiefs having urged people not to have bonfires in the current conditions.

There were such incidents in Witard Road and Sandy Lane in Norwich, in Sprowston, and at Gorleston, South Lynn and Nordelph.

Suffolk Fire and Rescue also endured a packed weekend, attending more than 70 incidents, including grass fires, reports of smoke, automatic smoke alarms and car fires.

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