Wildfires Rage in Britain After Record Temperatures

27 February 2019

Published by https://www.nytimes.com/


LONDON — On the same day that Britain experienced record winter temperatures, wildfires broke out at some of the nation’s most beloved nature spots.

Firefighters were deployed to tackle the blazes on Tuesday, when a record was set for the warmest February day since 1910 and the hottest winter day temperature.

The night sky glowed orange as fires spread on the picturesque Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh, Scotland, over moorland in Yorkshire, England, and in a forest made famous by A.A. Milne’s “Winnie the Pooh” books.

The firefighters that responded to a blaze on Marsden Moor in northwest England’s Peak District described seeing flames of up to six and a half feet high.

One witness called the scene before him “apocalyptic.”

The fire burned over half a square mile on Tuesday evening before it was extinguished by a team of around 30 firefighters.

Though the fire had died down by early Wednesday morning, crews returned to the site later in the day in case it reignited.

“Wildfires are not common in February,” said Dale Gardiner of the West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service. “And due to the above average weather conditions, this has elevated the wildfire risk across the county.”

Ashdown Forest in East Sussex — among England’s designated “areas of outstanding natural beauty” — is best known as the woodland that inspired the fictional Hundred Acre Wood of the “Winnie the Pooh” novels.

On Tuesday afternoon, it was ablaze after two different wildfires engulfed the woodland. It took more than 50 firefighters to control the fires, which were declared accidental.

A local fire service involved in the operation issued a warning on social media that the unseasonably warm weather could lead to a greater risk of wildfires.

Dozens of firefighters responded to a fire on Arthur’s Seat, one of the most famous viewpoints in Edinburgh, Scotland.

Plumes of smoke rose from the hillside as firefighters worked into the early hours of Wednesday morning to control the blaze, which were visible from the city center.

Another fire in Glyndyfrdwy, Wales, began on Tuesday afternoon, and it was still burning on Wednesday morning, the North Wales Fire Service confirmed.

Firefighters rescued a man who had been trapped in a tractor by the flames. He was taken to hospital, but his injuries were not yet known.

No injuries were reported in any of the other wildfires, but they did cause some travel disruption.

Temperatures set a record on Tuesday when they peaked at 21.2 degrees Celsius (70.16 Fahrenheit) in Kew Gardens, London.

In general, dry ground caused by the unusually warm February weather could have been one of many reasons for the wildfires, said Bonnie Diamond, a meteorologist at the Met Office, the National Weather Service.

“Climate change predictions suggest that, on average, conditions for wildfires in the U.K. are expected to increase as temperatures rise,” Ms. Diamond added.

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