Number of fires in Bucks and Milton Keynes more than doubled during last year's record heatwave

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The Bucks and Milton Keynes Fire and Rescue Service was called to 955 fires during July, August and September 2022

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

The government has been warned that 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.

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The Bucks and Milton Keynes Fire and Rescue Service was called to 955 fires in the third quarter of 2022, across July, August and September.

The firefighters' union is calling for more investmentThe firefighters' union is calling for more investment
The firefighters' union is calling for more investment

This was more than double the number in the same period last year, when firefighters were called to 458 fires.

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.

Of the 955 fires in Bucks last year, 350 of them were so-called 'primary fires' – 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 56% increase on the same period in 2021, when there were 224 primary fires.

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There were also 599 secondary fires – generally small outdoor fires not involving people or property – more than double the 232 in summer 2021.

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 Bucks, the average response time for primary fires in 2022 was 10 minutes and 24 seconds. This was an increase from nine minutes and 21 seconds in 2021.

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.

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Matt Wrack, general secretary of the Fire Brigades Union, 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."

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FBU members were due to strike over an ongoing pay dispute, after 88% of them voted in favour of action. However the strike has been postponed, following an increased pay offer.

A Home Office spokesperson 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.”