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Heatwave: Fires blaze after UK passes 40C for first time

Jul 2022 –  By Jasmine Andersson & Doug Faulkner
BBC News

The UK has recorded temperatures of over 40C (104F) for the first time.

Thermometers hit 40.3C at Coningsby in Lincolnshire, while 33 other locations went past the UK’s previous highest temperature of 38.7C, set in 2019.

Several fire services declared major incidents after a surge in fires. A major blaze in Wennington, in east London, left homes gutted.

Some rail services were cancelled after tracks overheated or buckled and overhead cables failed.

Hundreds of firefighters tackled fires across London, including in Wennington, where a grass fire spread to properties.

Residents, who had to be evacuated, told the BBC about eight homes and possibly a local church had been destroyed in the fire, while one firefighter at the scene described it as “absolute hell”.

Tim Stark, who alerted the fire brigade and whose own house was destroyed in the blaze, told BBC 5 Live he and his son had spotted the fire in his neighbour’s garden but despite their best efforts with a hose and watering can, had been unable to stop it spreading amid the dry conditions.

“My house is completely gone, as is the next door neighbour’s and three or four other houses along that bit.”

There have also been fires elsewhere in the country with major incidents declared in LeicestershireEast, North and South Yorkshire and Lincolnshire, Hertfordshire, Suffolk and Norfolk.

Home Secretary Priti Patel said she had been updated on the “dangerous fires” and urged the public to follow safety advice from their local fire service.

In the capital, people were urged not to have barbecues or bonfires and to be careful when disposing of cigarettes.

Two people were taken to hospital to be treated for smoke inhalation after a fire in Dagenham, east London, while further north a nursery was caught in a blaze in Milton Keynes.

London Fire Brigade assistant commissioner Jonathan Smith said some of the fires in the city were the result of “tinderbox”.

“It would be premature to say we are out the other end of this incident,” he added.

Heathrow Airport was the first place to break the 40C mark, hitting 40.2C at 12:50 BST but several other places also passed 40C during the afternoon, including Gringley on the Hill in Nottinghamshire and St James’s Park, Kew Gardens and Northolt – all in London.

A large swathe of eastern England, from Surrey to South Yorkshire, saw temperatures between 39C and 40C, and at least 34 weather stations exceeded the previous UK temperature record.

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