Wildfires burn across UK amid highest winter temperatures ever recorded

Large fires reported in at least seven parts of the country on hottest February day in history

Harry Cockburn
Wednesday 27 February 2019 17:25
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Wildfire breaks out on Saddleworth Moor

Wildfires have broken out across the country as the UK experiences the highest winter temperatures ever recorded.

On Tuesday evening, massive fires broke out in England, Wales and Scotland, which have also all seen prolonged dry spells.

The largest fire was at Saddleworth Moor in West Yorkshire, where fire crews fought to contain the “intense” flames for more than 13 hours.

Homes were evacuated and locals described the scene as looking like “the sky was on fire”.

One witness said: “It looks like the end of the world, it looks like the apocalypse is happening.”

Another huge blaze erupted on the hillside at Arthur’s Seat – the highest point in Holyrood Park in Edinburgh.

Over 800 square metres of gorse were alight on Tuesday night, with the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service battling through the night to extinguish the fire.

More than 200 people called the emergency services, with the large fire visible in many residential parts of Edinburgh.

Two fire engines from the city attended along with a Polaris all-terrain vehicle sent from Dunblane.

Two fires also broke out in East Sussex’s Ashdown Forest, made famous in the Winnie the Pooh books by AA Milne.

Fire at Ashdown Forest (Eddie Howland/SWNS)

Thirteen fire engines were sent to tackle the fires at Nutley and Kidds Hill – both about 10 miles east of Crawley.

Farm machinery was used to create a fire break and prevent it from spreading. Many people were unable to access their houses until the fire was brought under control late in the evening.

In Blacko, Lancashire, four fire engines were sent from surrounding towns to tackle a large moorland fire which broke out just after midday.

In Wales fire crews rescued a man trapped in his tractor after a fire over a mile in length broke out in gorse bushes at Glyndyfrdwy, Denbighshire, on Tuesday afternoon. The man was taken to hospital in Stoke and his condition is not yet known.

A hundred miles further south, in Cwmbach, Aberdare, another large fire was reported on a hillside. Four fire engines dealt with the blaze.

And large fires were also burning on the Lizard peninsula in Cornwall last night. Crews from five Cornwall stations tackled the blazes, most of which are believed to have been caused by arson.

All the fires came on the same day the UK recorded its highest ever winter temperature of 21.2C in Kew Gardens, west London.

Speaking about the fire at Saddleworth Moor, the wildfire lead at West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service Dale Gardiner said: “While we have not yet determined a cause of the fire, this is amongst the biggest moorland fires we have had to deal with in recent years.

Fire at Saddleworth Moor on 26 February

“Wildfires are not generally common in February, so the above average weather conditions has elevated the wildfire risk across the county.

“Generally the summer months are our busiest times for wildfire, however due to the warmth we’re experiencing now, we feel it’s a good idea to remind the public of some steps they can take to stop this sort of thing happening.”

During last summer’s record breaking heatwave a fire on Saddleworth Moor took over three weeks to extinguish and required army assistance to tackle.

Agencies contributed to this report

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