Wildfire warning: Heatwave death toll as high as 760 - and farms at risk

UK experiences sixth consecutive day of over 30C temperatures

Environment Editor

Farmers will be on high-alert this weekend as the heatwave threatens to unleash a wave of fires that could ruin crops across the country, a senior Met Office scientist has warned.

Update, Fri  19 July 18:00 BST: Spike in A&E admissions, wildfires and melting roads as Britain battles seventh day of 30-plus temperatures

As Britain clocked up its sixth consecutive day of plus-30C temperatures  - with the thermometer peaking at 30.4C –  soon-to-be harvested crops such as wheat and winter barley are looking particularly vulnerable to fire, said Karl Kitchen, the Met Office scientist with responsibility for wildfires. He issued his crop-fire warning as the country continued to reel from the longest heatwave for seven years.

In Consett, County Durham, a 21-year old father died after falling from a flat roof while sunbathing, while it emerged that Graham Bennett, a postman of 29 years, collapsed and died on Monday while doing his round on the Ermine estate in Lincoln.

As many as 760 people are thought to have died so far as a result of the heatwave, as the death toll of swimmers drowning as the sun enticed people into Britain’s dangerous open water sites hit at least 13.

In London, where there have been an average of 21 grass fires a day this month, an area the size of four football pitches caught fire on Mitcham Common near Croydon. Meanwhile, donations of O and B blood groups are down 11 per cent, the NHS said.

The temperature is forecast to dip slightly today, to a maximum of 29.0C. But the Met Office has today elevated the wildfire warning system it introduced this year from yellow to amber, meaning any grassfire will be extremely difficult to contain.

The Met Office this morning issued a Level 3 heatwave warning for the north-west of England, but reduced London and South East's to Level 2.

Grass and “elevated” crops are particularly susceptible to fire and the risk posed by the prolonged hot, dry weather will accelerate this weekend as the wind picks up and humidity decreases. The Met Office said: “Anywhere south of Liverpool and Manchester and in Wales will be vulnerable.”

Wheat crops are said to be particularly vulnerable because they are “very aerated” and the lower the plant density the easier it is for the flames to spread. Guy Gagen, chief arable advisor to the National Farmers Union (NFU), said: “There is a risk at this time every year, but this year that risk is elevated. This is the driest and warmest period since 2006 and means grass, instead of growing, will die off and spread the risk.”

Mr Gagen said that Britain’s 300 square kilometres of winter barley crops would be most at risk over the weekend because they are ripe and in the process of being harvested. Moving closer to August, without substantial rainfall, the 2,000 square kilometre wheat crop will become most vulnerable as it begins to harvest, he said. In the case of both crops, the danger is spread across the UK but greatest in East Anglia where a large portion of the plants are grown. Ripe crops are most flammable with crops less likely to burn when they are greener.

One person enjoying the hot weather is the Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, who today revealed that he is wandering around in his socks to keep cool in the office. “Obviously in public events when I have to respect the dignity of the office I put my shoes back on,” he told London’s LBC radio.

Texans warm to climate change

Americans’ belief in the existence of climate change is more closely linked to the thermometer than previously thought, a survey reveals. Following a winter of record snowfall in 2010, the US public’s acceptance of climate change fell to a low of 52 per cent. By March this year it had staged something of a recovery, rising to 65 per cent. In the July heat, climate change acceptance is now at 70 per cent, according to the poll by the University of Texas.

Tom Bawden

News
peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
News
news
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
life
New Articles
i100... with this review
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Voices
Holly's review of Peterborough's Pizza Express quickly went viral on social media
Sport
footballTim Sherwood: This might be th match to wake up Manchester City
Arts and Entertainment
musicHow female vocalists are now writing their own hits
New Articles
i100
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
News
Blahnik says: 'I think I understand the English more than they do themselves'
people
Arts and Entertainment
Michelle Dockery as Lady Mary Crawley in Downton Abbey
TVInside Downton Abbey series 5
Life and Style
The term 'normcore' was given the oxygen of publicity by New York magazine during the autumn/winter shows in Paris in February
fashionWhen is a trend a non-trend? When it's Normcore, since you ask
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Marketing Manager - Leicestershire - £35,000

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (CIM, B2B, MS Offi...

Marketing Executive (B2B and B2C) - Rugby, Warwickshire

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly successful organisation wit...

SEN Coordinator + Teacher (SENCO)

£1 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Job Purpose To work closely with the he...

Research Manager - Quantitative/Qualitative

£32000 - £42000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam