England’s driest May since 1896 has left the country at risk of ‘devastating’ wildfires, while water levels plunge.
Water board bosses are also anxiously eyeing reservoirs as the country bakes in unseasonably warm and dry weather.
This month’s lack of rainfall is likely to make it England’s driest for more than 100 years, according to the Met Office, who told The Sun that just 9.5mm rain so far meant the ‘chances are’ it will be the driest May since 1896. That would be the latest weather record to tumble in Britain amid rising global temperatures and concern around the climate crisis.
There has been very little rain in most regions across the country for weeks and with more wall-to-wall sun forecast into June, fire chiefs warn undergrowth could explode into flames ‘just about anywhere’. And yesterday the Country Landowners’ Association begged the public to take extra care following a spate of wildfires, including a huge blaze which devastated a forest on Anglesey off the North Wales coast early on Tuesday, which police believe could have been started by arsonists.
It comes as stark images showed Lancashire’s Jumbles Reservoir, in Bradshaw, Bolton, almost bone dry amid concern about falling water levels.
Fire chiefs have warned groups thinking of escaping the coronavirus lockdown by driving into the countryside and having barbecues are adding to the risk of wildfires.
East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service said: ‘Due to the current dry weather climate, we wish to remind everyone that whilst we recognise the importance of outdoor exercise for health and wellbeing, we would ask that you are considerate in the disposal of rubbish and cigarettes.
‘Please ensure that cigarettes are extinguished appropriately and all rubbish placed in bins or taken home with you to help stop these fires.’
A Country Landowners’ Association South-East spokesman added: ‘Warm, dry and settled conditions have elevated wildfire conditions.
‘According to the latest figures from the Environment Agency, on average there were 24 dry days last month (0.2mm recorded rainfall or less a day) in the South East, and it was the sunniest April on record.
‘May has continued the trend, with just five per cent of the long-term average rainfall being recorded last week.
‘The dry conditions are likely to continue over the next few weeks.
‘Wildfires have the capability to devastate farmland, wildlife and also pose a risk to the lives of people living and working in rural and adjacent communities.
Last year was the hottest ever for Europe and the second hottest worldwide.
Ocean temperatures also make for alarming reading on climate change – with the hottest year for global temperatures being 2019, followed by 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015 and 2014.
In the UK, it was revealed last year that the country’s top ten hottest years ever have all happened since 2002.
In a huge blaze last week, a forest near Wareham, Dorset, was devastated, killing thousands of birds, lizards and other creatures.
Another inferno razed a stretch of Ashdown Forest, the Sussex beauty spot which was the inspiration for Winnie the Pooh’s Hundred Acre Wood.
More than 50 firefighters battled the blaze all night, helped by forest rangers to beat out the inferno.
Another blaze at Penrith, Cumbria, was sparked when a bonfire raged out of control, setting light to the undergrowth.
Fire crews also battled a blaze in the undergrowth on Bangor Mountain in North Wales which led to a 200ft high column of thick black smoke being visible from miles away.
This is the fire guidance the public are being urged to follow:
- Do not try and tackle the fire yourself – call 999.
- Give an accurate location of the fire,
- Move to a safe area and contact the local land manager if possible.
- If the fire is in a remote area, please meet emergency services at the access point so that you can guide them to the location.
What not to do:
- Don’t discard cigarettes.
- Don’t have BBQs in unauthorised areas.
- Never leave a BBQ unattended.
- Don’t discard rubbish – particularly reflective materials.
- Don’t burn off garden rubbish during hot periods or if you live close to woodland.
- Don’t have bonfires on hot days or during prolonged periods of dry
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Source: Metro News UK