United Kingdom — Heathland fires continued in parts of the country today after rainfall failed to extinguish the flames.
Some 60 firefighters hosed down burning moorlands in Lancashire, where yesterday’s rainfall had made few inroads.
A Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service spokesman said: ‘The rain wasn’t very long in duration. It wasn’t a downpour for any length of time, it was a light shower over a short period of time and it hasn’t penetrated deep enough, so basically the job still continues.’
Smouldering: Up to 200 firemen have been tackling the Berkshire blaze which has been going since Monday
Blackened: Soldiers will help tackle the blaze in Swinley Forest, Berkshire for at least 24 hours
Eight blazes raged on over a six square-mile area at Belmont, while another one was tackled at Simonswood.
But more rain showers and thunderstorms were expected to lend a helping hand to firefighters battling heathland blazes elsewhere, forecasters said.
Experts have predicted a ‘Spanish plume’ over the weekend, with warm air moving in from Spain and triggering thunderstorms and heavy rain across the country.
This is likely to prove welcome to Royal Berkshire Fire and Rescue Service, which is still tackling heathland fires that broke out in the Swinley Forest area earlier in the week.
Water was pumped at high volume from 30 fire engines there today as officers continued their round-the-clock efforts to extinguish it.
Police investigating the Swinley Forest fire yesterday confirmed they had arrested two youths on suspicion of arson.
The 14-year-old boys were released on bail until next month, officers said.
Seven appliances from Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service were sent to tackle an ongoing blaze at Turton today, while two teenagers were arrested on suspicion of arson following a large moorland fire near Halifax.
West Yorkshire Police said two males, aged 15 and 16, had been arrested and remained in custody.
Inspector Stuart Spencer said: ‘We are very aware of the massive impact the recent moorland fires have had upon our partner emergency services – in particular the fire service – and the devastating impact upon the fragile environment.’
A spokesman for West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service said: ‘Fires in the Ogden area have severely damaged around four square kilometres of moorland and put a big strain on West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service resources at a time when we were stretched.
Charred: Families living near the Swinley Forest fire have been evacuated
A firefighter sprays water over smoking ground in Swinley Forest as they bring the fire under control
‘There has been a large and prolonged response from the fire and rescue service and a number of partners, who provided staff, volunteers and equipment, including a helicopter.
‘Any fire started deliberately puts lives at risk and not only do they put anyone in close proximity at risk but they also pose a danger to firefighters and partners who assist in tackling them.
‘The fires have also caused considerable damage to rare wildlife and vegetation.’
Meanwhile, crews across the rest of the UK seem to have tamed the majority of the blazes.
The hottest April on record, which saw only a fifth of the expected rainfall in England and Wales, has caused vast areas of parched, tinder-dry land to go up in flames over the past week.
It is believed most of the fires, which have caused widespread damage to scenic beauty spots and conservation areas, were started deliberately.
Crews in Northern Ireland have fought more than 1,000 gorse and forest fires in the past four days in what chiefs said was the busiest time in 30 years.
Feeling the heat: Soldiers have also been deployed to a wildfire in the Brecon Beacons in mid-Wales
Around 200 personnel, including soldiers, have battled 255 fires in 31 locations since Tuesday, according to the province’s deputy chief fire officer Chris Kerr.
In the Scottish Highlands, wildfires broke out in Inverkirkaig, Lochailort and in Newton of Ardtoe in Salen, while the National Trust for Scotland said at least £100,000 of damage had been caused to its forest regeneration project in Torridon and Kintail.
Strong winds and very little rainfall across the UK has hampered the efforts of hundreds of firefighters and emergency workers, with helicopters being used to drop water in the worst-affected regions.
Paul Knightley, a senior forecaster at Meteogroup, said showers and thunderstorms were approaching south west England this evening however, with the rain due to spread northwards overnight.
‘The showers will creep very slowly eastwards at the same time and by the end of tonight quite a lot of the west of the UK and some parts of central UK will have seen some showery rain,’ he said.
‘The parts of Berkshire that have seen the fires should get some rain, especially after midnight.
‘By Sunday morning I think most of Britain should have seen some rain. The weather in some places will be quite dramatic, with a lot of thunder and lightning.’
But the climate is forecast to remain warm, albeit cloudy, with temperatures of 20C or more likely to be recorded in many parts of the country over the weekend,