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Safety warning as heatwave sparks huge rise in field fires

A charred crop field in Horsford, Norfolk. Photo: ITV News Anglia

Widespread field fires across East Anglia are putting farmers and fire services under pressure.

In Norfolk alone, there were more than 50 fires in the open over the weekend - there are normally only 300 in the whole year.

Suffolk's firefighters have also been busy, with more than 65 since Friday.

Many of the field and crop fires have been sparked by the tinder dry conditions and the continuing heatwave.

Most places in the Anglia region have seen little or no rain so far in July following on from the driest June for more than 60 years.

Fire services are warning people to take care with barbecues and while putting out cigarettes

A firefighter beating a fire out at Corpusty in north Norfolk. Credit: Jo Clarke

On Sunday, the Anglia region was the hottest part of the UK with the temperature reaching 31°C (88°F) at Santon Downham in Suffolk.

That made it the equal hottest day of the year so far along with 7 July.

In one incident on Sunday evening, eight fire engines were called to what Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service called a "large scale field fire" on Long Street in Great Ellingham.

That followed field and crop fires earlier in the day in Poringland, Salhouse, Horsford, Saxthorpe, Thetford and Barnham Broom.

Nine fire engines were called to a 40 acre field fire in a standing crop at Binham.

Firefighters in Norfolk were dealing with more than a dozen field fires on Sunday alone. Credit: Jo Clarke

The situation has been similar is other counties in the Eastern region as drought conditions continue.

Since the start of June there has been only 7 mm (0.3 inches) of rain recorded across the Anglia region. Normally during that period from June to mid July, the region would expect about 80 mm (3.1 inches) of rain.

Across England it was the driest June since 1925.

Demand for water has increased by 20% in recent weeks prompting Anglian Water to warn people not to waste supplies.

But the water company reassured customers that there was no water shortage and that reservoirs were nearly full.

It says more than half the region's comes from reservoirs like Rutland Water and Grafham Water and they were 93% full at the beginning of July.

"We’re used to lots of people needing water, and having little rain – ours is the driest region in the UK with just two thirds of the national average rainfall, and it’s also one of the fastest growing.

"Two of the five fastest growing cities are in our patch, with new homes being built all the time. So it’s something we have been planning for and investing in for a long time."

– Paul Valleley, Anglian Water
Tinder dry conditions are sparking dozens of field and crop fires across East Anglia. Credit: Jo Clarke

The dry weather is also hitting the country's rivers with the Environment Agency reporting in its latest weekly bulletin that two-thirds were now running at below normal rates.

In the Anglia region, the Ely Ouse river system was running at "exceptionally low" which occurs only 5% of the time.

The rivers Yare, Gipping, Chelmer and Cam are also flowing at below normal rates

Reservoir levels in the Anglia region reported by the Environment Agency at the end of June

  • Hanningfield - 83% full (below normal)
  • Lower Lee group - 87% (normal)
  • Abberton - 88% full (normal)
  • Grafham - 90% full (below normal)
  • Rutland - 94% full (normal)
A field fire at Corpusty in Norfolk on Sunday 15 July 2018. Credit: Jo Clarke