Risk of wildfires ‘remains significant’ as soil ‘baked dry’, forecaster warns

·3-min read
Risk of wildfires ‘remains significant’ as soil ‘baked dry’, forecaster warns

Wildfires across the UK remain a siginificant risk due to the dry conditions across the UK, forecasters warned.

The dry conditions so far this year, combined with last month’s record-breaking heatwave, have depleted rivers, reservoirs and aquifers.

Soil has now become ”baked dry”, hitting agriculture, water supplies and wildlife, and raising the risk of wildfires, Met Office meteorologist Dan Stroud said.

"It has been extremely dry for an extended period and the ground and vegetation has been baked dry, so there is a significant risk," he said.

However, thunderstorms are expected in northern parts of the UK, with yellow thunderstorm warnings in place from noon on Sunday until 6am on Monday for most of Scotland and Northern Ireland, and from 10am until midnight for Wales and England.

“As we move into Sunday, a slight change with low pressure starting to arrive from the south,” Mr Stroud said.

“There is an increasing risk of some isolated showers across Devon and Cornwall, very early on Sunday.

“Most places still generally dry and fine, with some strong August sunshine, with those temperatures rising rapidly during the course of Sunday morning and into the afternoon.”

The hot weather has already seen several wildfires erupt across England.

In Dorset, firefighters battled overnight to bring a wildfire at Studland under control, which was believed to have been sparked by a disposable barbecue.

Due to the dry weather, Dorset and Wiltshire fire service said they had attended 180 fire between August 1 and 10, an increase 429 per cent from the previous period last year.

An amber heat warning remains in place until midnight on Sunday across parts of England and Wales.

This means heat-related illnesses including sunburn and heat exhaustion are “likely” among the general population, and delays to public transport are “possible”.

An official drought was declared in eight areas of England on Friday by the National Drought Group (NDG), which comprises representatives from the Government, water companies, the Environment Agency (EA) and others.

England’s drought could persist into the next year, according to the EA.

John Curtin, executive director for local operations at the EA, said that after the driest summer in 50 years, it would take “weeks’ worth of rain” to replenish water sources.

Three water companies – Welsh Water, Southern Water, and South East Water – have all imposed hosepipe bans, while Yorkshire Water has announced a ban will start on August 26 and Thames Water is planning one in the coming weeks.

On Friday night, fire crews in Derbyshire tackled a huge blaze, with four fire engines at the scene in Creswell, Worksop.

Footage shared online showed flames filling the horizon and large plumes of smoke in the sky above a residential area.

In Dorset, a team of firefighters worked through the night to bring a wildfire at Studland under control.

Dorset Police said on Saturday firefighters had discovered an unexploded piece of ammunition believed to date to the Second World War on the scorched heathland.

The force said a bomb disposal unit would be attending and warned the public in the surrounding area they may hear a loud bang as they dispose of the device.

It comes as Dorset Police appealed for anyone with any information about the cause of a large heath fire in Poole on August 4 to come forward.

Witnesses saw three young boys on bicycles making off from the scene at Upton Heath at about 2.30pm.

The fire had a “significant” impact on the community, and took firefighters several hours to put out.