West Yorkshire firefighter warns heatwave day 'was a wake-up call' as Leeds hit highest recorded temperature

The unprecedented numbers of fires sweeping the nation yesterday was a “wake-up” call, a West Yorkshire fire chief says.

Dave Walton, deputy chief fire officer for West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service, has issued a warning that the situation seen across the UK yesterday will not be a one off.

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“Yesterday was a game changer and took us to a completely new level. Fires were spreading much more quickly than ever before,” Dave said.

“Usually when a big fire happens you can call on neighbouring fire services to help, but not yesterday. Everyone was busy and completely stacked out. This tells us we need a fundamental rethink how we resource our Fire and Rescue Service nationally, so we can be prepared for this.

“The predictions are we will get heatwaves like this much more regularly, even as much as every three years, due to climate change. This is very different position we are in now compared to a one-off event nearly 50 years ago, and we need to see this as a wake-up call.”

Several fire services across the country, including London and some in Yorkshire, were forced to call a major incident due to severe issues they were experiencing.

While this did not happen in West Yorkshire, fire officer Walton revealed it was close.

Dave Walton (pictured right), deputy chief fire officer for West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service, has issued a warning that the situation seen across the UK yesterday will not be a one off.

“Fortunately, we didn’t see the big sweeping moorland fires we have tackled in the past, but that was luck more than anything.

“We did however have smaller grassland fires, and this could easily have sparked a bigger situation given the conditions.

“Thankfully no one has yet died from the fires across the country yesterday, but it could so easily have been a different story today.”

He is urging people to be vigilant and to phone 999 if they see anyone using a barbeque in open areas, or causing any other antisocial behavior.

“We are all aware now that these things are dangerous and so there is no longer an excuse to be using barbeques – especially disposable ones – out in the open countryside where they could spark a fire. They are banned on moorlands already and you will be prosecuted if seen using one.”

Dave also posted his thoughts on his Twitter feed after yesterday’s heatwave, reminding the public that the true impact of the day will not become clear until all incidents are logged.

He tweeted: “Fire crews were going from one incident to the next, to the next…it has been brutal. I’ve never known so many major incidents declared at a whole FRS level at once. I lost count at one point. This is not a post about the effects of austerity on the FRS, or how hot it was in 1976, or the fact that it was just a ‘hot day’ - it’s about a peek into the future.

“Your Fire and Rescue Service staff are heroes - every one of them - but they can’t work miracles. Today was about climate change, the hottest UK day on record - ever! If you don’t believe in climate change, ask a firefighter who has been on duty in the last two days what they think about it.”