The London Fire Brigade is calling for a “total ban” on disposable barbecues after it experienced its busiest days since the Blitz tackling an unprecedented number of fires during the extreme heat last week.
With more dry and sunny weather forecast, and climate crisis only making heatwaves more likely, firefighters are concerned that disposable BBQs could spark grass fires as vegetation in London’s parks and commons is like a “tinderbox”, the fire brigade said in a statement.
Last week as temperatures soared across the UK, London firefighters attended more than 1,000 fires, of which 34 were grass fires, received more than 8,000 calls and attended more than 3,000 incidents. The number of 999 calls was more than double the number taken in the same period last year, the fire brigade said.
Disposable barbecues can cause grassland fires if they’re not put out properly, and firefighters are also warning Londoners not to have BBQs on balconies or open fires in parks and public spaces.
The barbecues retain heat long after they’ve been put out, and the fire brigade said it is backing a petition by a man whose son was severely burned by a disposable barbecue for a complete ban on the sale and use of them in the UK.
London’s Fire Commissioner, Andy Roe, said despite issuing grass fire warnings, the London Fire Brigade still see some people behaving “carelessly and recklessly”.
On Saturday 23 July, firefighters prevented a serious blaze at Wanstead Flats caused by using a disposable barbecue, he said.
“We need urgent action now to see a national ban on the sale of disposable barbecues,” he said, adding that they could be bought for as little as five pounds and can cause “untold damage”.
“Last week is another example of how we are increasingly being challenged by new extremes of weather as our climate changes and we’re developing long-term strategies to deal with more incidents like this in the future,” he said.
Temperatures reached 40.3C at Coningsby in Lincolnshire on 19 July, setting a new record for the UK. The Met Office confirmed the new record on Thursday, following what it described as a rigorous process of analysis and quality control.
The Met Office issued its first extreme heat weather warning last week, and the government announced the first national heatwave emergency for 18 and 19 July.
Climate scientists have repeatedly warned that heatwaves across the world are getting longer, hotter and more likely due to climate change. A rapid analysis published on Thursday found that the climate emergency had made the heatwave in the UK ten times more likely.