Fears of wild fires as temperatures set to soar to 36C

Fire crews are battling a huge field fire near Ipswich Picture: STEVE HAYWARD

Fire crews are battling a huge field fire near Ipswich Picture: STEVE HAYWARD - Credit: Archant

There are fears Suffolk could be hit by a wave of field fires this week as temperatures rise to a predicted 36C, putting extra pressure on fire crews.

Foxhall field fire Ipswich Picture: IAIN WRIGHT

Foxhall field fire Ipswich Picture: IAIN WRIGHT - Credit: Archant

Fire chiefs have warned the county is "dry and vulnerable to fire" as yet another fire in the open burns at Clare, taking the total for the month to date to nearly 70.

Meanwhile, Kevin Driver, a firefighter at Princes Street, in Ipswich, said the pressure put on crews by these huge fires can be intense. Mr Driver, who is Brigade Secretary for the Suffolk branch of the Fire Brigade's Union (FBU), said: "We get a lot more fires in the open at this time of year and they are arduous work for crews.

"They are very labour intensive, you need lots of people there to try and stop the fire spread at an early stage."

The fact many of these fires happen during the day time, when the sun is at full strength, adds to the pressure.

Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service tackling a field fire in Lower Blakenham last summer Picture: SFRS

Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service tackling a field fire in Lower Blakenham last summer Picture: SFRS - Credit: SFRS

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"Last week we had a large fire at Foxhall, on the outskirts of Ipswich, and we had up to 18 appliances there. We had to call on crews from Manningtree - and it is quite rare to need to call an Essex crew that deep into Suffolk - but we struggle to get retained crews out during the day."

Firefighters have asked the public to remain vigilant and to take steps to prevent the devastating fires.

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Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) had 68 fires in the open between July 1 and July 22 this year, compared to 214 over the same period last year.

Last year saw an unprecedented level of field fires as a result of the prolonged heatwave with Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) called to 522 field, crop and stubble fires in June and July alone - nearly double its record for the previous year.

Last week, the fire at Purdis Road and Hall Road in Foxhall destroyed 75 acres of standing crop, with crews spending several hours dealing with the blaze.

SFRS area commander, Dave Collins, said: "We are prepared for any incidents related to this week's hot conditions.

"Standing crops, grass, trees and undergrowth are currently dry and vulnerable to fire.

"It is important that everyone remains vigilant and is aware of the simple fire risks when out in the open."

He added that SFRS recommended a number of measures to reduce the risk of fire including hosting barbecues at home rather than in fields or forests, that cigarettes are put out properly and that glasses are not left outside.

It also asked the public to avoid taking vehicles on dry grassy areas over fears that hot exhausts could cause fires.

Over the border, however, Essex County Fire and Rescue Service said that it had not been involved in many open fires yet this year despite the warm weather.

The County Land and Business Association (CLA), which supports landowners across the country, has reiterated calls for vigilance because of the impact such fires can have on businesses.

Ben Underwood from the CLA said: "We know the devastating impact wildfires can have during the summer, both on communities and farmers.

"Harvest time is a crucial time for farmers, but it is also a period of added risk of fire due to the tinderbox dry conditions on their fields."

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