How South Yorkshire firefighters adapted after wildfires on the UK's hottest ever day

During this time, South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue saw fire's across Barnsley, as well as blazes that gutted homes in Doncaster and Rotherham.

Firefighters who were caught up in a major incident on the UK's hottest ever day say they are taking steps to prepare for increasingly frequent and damaging wildfires.

In searing heat on 19 July 2022, fire spread from fields to homes in South Yorkshire as temperatures approached 40C.

Properties across Barnsley, Doncaster and Rotherham were destroyed. The derelict ski village in Sheffield was also swept up in flames, with a plume of smoke drifting over the city.

As the emergency services struggled to cope with demand, South Yorkshire was one of several areas across the country where major incidents were declared.

In a 24-hour period, South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service alone received around 2,000 call-outs.

Residents of Woodland Drive were left to rebuild their lives from scratch after the fires in July 2022.

Aimie Seago was one of the firefighters on duty. She said: "There were just that many calls coming in that we didn't have enough staff to take them.

"We took about 2,000 calls within a 24 hour period to the point where we were taking calls and we had no fire engines to send to people.

"It's a very scary experience, I've never been in that situation before."

A man tries to fight a fire on Woodland Drive in Barnsley, 19 July 2022.

The brigade says it is inevitable that wildfires will become more prevalent as temperatures increase thanks to climate change.

Group manager Mike Anthony said: "I think that's part of the increased risk that we're seeing with extreme weather, the traditional wildfire is now moving closer to urban areas and areas of grassland that are joined to gardens and pose a greater risk now than they previously did, when we suffer periods of extreme heat."

Following last year's heatwaves, new all-terrain vehicles and specialised equipment have been introduced in South Yorkshire.

The scene after a blaze in Barnsley, after temperatures topped 40C in the UK for the first time ever. Credit: PA

Crews have also received additional training to help them deal with heatwave-related incidents.

Firefighter Seago said that adapting to the changing climate was the only way the service could survive in the future.

She said: "I am confident in the service that we have got stuff in place to help us deal with this type of weather that we are getting.

"We've got plans and procedures in place now where certain triggers will let us know that we need to send a wildfire unit to it."

How do wildfires start?

Wildfires are often caused by people, sometimes deliberately, but lightning or a tiny spark, in the right conditions, could set off a fire. 

The higher temperatures dry out vegetation, greatly increasing its flammability. Hot weather with little rainfall increases the likelihood of wildfires.

Once alight, dry vegetation fuels taller flames that spread fast.

What can we do to prevent wildfires?

Heatwaves are made more intense and frequent mainly because overall temperatures are higher. When weather systems such as summer high pressure occur, the heat they bring is amplified.

Scientists and experts in the UK are developing engineering and ecological techniques to combat the effects.

But Dr Rory Hadden, Rushbrook senior lecturer in fire investigation at the University of Edinburgh, said: "We also need to recognise that actions of individuals will ultimately be the key to managing the risks presented by these fires.

Guillermo Rein, professor of fire science at Imperial College London, said: "Wildfires are best fought before the start, via prevention and management of the natural resources."

Meanwhile MPs have called for a ban on disposable barbeques and Chinese sky lanterns which could spark a blaze on tinder-dry grass.