Norfolk firefighters battle almost 200 wildfires in six weeks during heatwave

Firefighters tackled a blaze covering 40 acres of field in Binham. Photo: Steve Williams Holt

Firefighters tackled a blaze covering 40 acres of field in Binham. Photo: Steve Williams Holt - Credit: Archant

Firefighters in Norfolk have battled almost 200 wildfires in the last six weeks, compared to just 32 two years ago.

The ongoing spell of hot weather has seen a spike in demand, with crews called to 191 open fire incidents from June 1 to July 18.

Last year, there were 109 similar fires in the same period - and just 32 the year before.

Margaret Dewsbury, chairman of Norfolk County Council's communities committee, said: 'Our fire service staff continue to give so much over and above the call of duty.

'Our retained firefighters are making themselves available for longer periods of time to offer increased levels of cover and many of the crews are taking reduced breaks so that they can remain available. They are returning many times to protracted and demanding incidents.

MORE: Fire warnings as hot weather and dry conditions spark wildfires'As well as these wildfires, the service continues to deal with other emergency fire and road traffic collision calls and its prevention and protection work across the county to do all it can to keep our county safe. Despite the high levels of calls, our county remains in safe hands thanks to the dedication of this service.'

Since the start of the year there have been 261 open fires across Norfolk, with 76 of them - 29pc - believed to be deliberate.

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Some, though, were not reckless or malicious, with the 29pc including, for example, deliberately lit bonfires that got out of control.

Last weekend, fire crews responded to 50 open fire calls around the county.

Garry Collins, head of protection and prevention at Norfolk Fire, said: 'Open fires can quickly spread and endanger life. Some of these incidents were not intentional but if you are somewhere and a fire starts, it is hugely important that you call 999 as quickly as possible to prevent a small fire becoming a bigger fire.

'We continue to ask the public not to start camp fires and bonfires in these tinder dry conditions. Please heed the current advice and suspend all use of naked flames and take extreme care when discarding cigarettes. The impact of these careless acts presents a huge risk to lives and property and many of the recent fires could have been avoided.'

MORE: Firefighters tackle blaze near Norwich Airport in field next to NDRThe service warned that open fires could cause damage to property and even risk lives. On Sunday, two homes in Blofield were fire-damaged when a blaze in shrubland spread to nearby homes.

But they also warned it could work the other way round - and that fires in bins and vehicles could spread to the open.

Some of the large field fires in the last few days have needed six or eight fire crews to put them out.

In some, turning over and cropping fields has caused flints on the ground to spark and caused unintentional fires. The county council is encouraging the public to read this document and respond to the police and crime commissioner's consultation on governance of Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service.

The consultation can be found by clicking here.

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