More fires in Tyne and Wear during last year's record heatwave

Last summer was a busy time for firefighters in Tyne and Wear, as record temperatures sparked a wave of fires across the country.
EDITORS NOTE: NAMES BLURRED AT REQUEST OF LONDON FIRE BRIGADE File photo dated 21/07/22 of new London Fire Brigade recruits go through their paces during a drill at a Fire station in East London.EDITORS NOTE: NAMES BLURRED AT REQUEST OF LONDON FIRE BRIGADE File photo dated 21/07/22 of new London Fire Brigade recruits go through their paces during a drill at a Fire station in East London.
EDITORS NOTE: NAMES BLURRED AT REQUEST OF LONDON FIRE BRIGADE File photo dated 21/07/22 of new London Fire Brigade recruits go through their paces during a drill at a Fire station in East London.

Last summer was a busy time for firefighters in Tyne and Wear, as record temperatures sparked a wave of fires across the country.

The Government has been warned more extreme weather linked to climate change will mean more fire risks to the public, and faces calls for more investment from the firefighters' union.

The Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service was called to 3,048 fires in the third quarter of 2022, across July, August and September.

That period coincides with last year's summer heatwave, when a record-breaking 40.3C was recorded at Coningsby in Lincolnshire on July 19. The Met Office has since revealed 2022 was the joint-hottest summer on record in England.

The figures show a 61% increase on the same period in 2021, when the fire service was called to 1,899 fires.

While firefighters deal with a wide range of incidents, the total number of fires rose significantly across England.

Of the 3,048 fires in Tyne and Wear last year, 506 of them were so-called 'primary fires'.

These are fires which occur in a non-derelict building, vehicle or outdoor structure or involved a fatality, casualty or rescue or were attended by five or more pumping appliances.

This was a 12% increase on the same period in 2021, when there were 453 primary fires.

There were also 2,541 secondary fires – generally small outdoor fires, not involving people or property – an increase of 76% on the number in summer 2021 when there were 1,445.

Across England, July to September 2022 saw more fires than in any other three-month period for over a decade. There were 68,278 recorded fires, more than in a single quarter since 2011.

Average incident response times also rose last year.

In Tyne and Wear the average response time for primary fires in 2022 was six minutes and 42 seconds.

This was an increase on 2021, when the average response time for primary fires was six minutes and 34 seconds.

Last summer England saw the joint warmest mean temperature ever recorded (17.1C) equalling that of summer 2018, while some areas saw less than 50% of their typical summer rainfall.

The warmest and driest areas were in the East of England, while for East Anglia and parts of northeast England it was the hottest summer on record.

Matt Wrack, general secretary of the Fire Brigades Union warned climate change means fire services need to do more to prepare for future extreme weather, and the impact it has on firefighters.

He said: "The Government has turned a blind eye to the obvious: the climate emergency means record breaking heatwaves. Rising temperatures mean an increase in dangerous fires. More fires mean more pressure on firefighters and our fire service.

"However, our fire service has been cut to the bone over the last decade, and 11,500 firefighter jobs have been slashed since 2010.

"The fire and rescue service must urgently plan for this coming summer and for the future. This must involve properly funding and resourcing our service for the years to come.

"Politicians and chief fire officers have ignored years of warnings. Now they must act."

FBU members were due to strike over an ongoing pay dispute, after 88% of them voted in favour of action. However this strike has now been postponed, following an increased pay offer from fire and rescue service employers.

A Home Office spokesperson acknowledged the increase in fire numbers, but pointed out there had been no corresponding increase in fire-related fatalities compared to the previous year.

They said: “The Government is committed to ensuring fire services have the resources they need to keep us safe, including from wildfires, and, overall, fire and rescue authorities received around £2.5 billion in 2022-23.

“The Home Office maintains regular engagement with national bodies including the National Fire Chiefs Council and England and Wales Wildfire Forum to monitor and review sector led improvements to wildfire response and mitigation.”