Wennington fire: London major incident declared as heatwave triggers blazes ripping through homes

Aerial video shows fire destroying properties in Wennington as temperatures soared during the heatwave.

The heatwave blaze which has destroyed homes in the east London village has been described as a “worst nightmare” event.

Dramatic footage captured the huge fire ripping through homes in Wennington, a settlement on the capital's outskirts, as the city was scorched by record-breaking 40C temperatures.

The capital's heat has triggered a series of blazes, putting firefighters under extreme pressure and prompting authorities to declare a major incident in the city.

Aerial footage showed thick black smoke billowing into the air, with buildings and fields on fire on Tuesday afternoon in Wennington, in the borough of Havering, near London's border with Essex.

Wennington residents who fled the inferno were forced to watch their village burn on TV, as they desperately asked firefighters if they knew whether their homes had survived.

One elderly woman was seen crying hysterically saying: “Oh my God – the house is gone”, while her family tried to comfort her.

Wennington resident Lynn Sabberton told ITV News she had no idea whether her house in the village had been damaged after she was forced to evacuate.

  • 'I ran as fast as I could with the flames behind me': Wennington resident Steve Rolton on evading a wildfire.

"It's a very good neighbourhood, a very good community. I feel sorry if [people] have got any young children or babies... it was such a panic," she added.

London's mayor Sadiq Khan said firefighters were under "immense pressure" and he was in direct contact with the Commissioner following a day of fires across the scorching capital.

Wennington villagers forced to evacuate their homes were left to ask council and fire officials about whether their pets had been rescued and if their homes were still standing.

  • Lynn Sabberton was forced to evacuate her home in the east London village of Wennington.

Riminta Maceikaite, 38 and her son Nikas Janulevicius, 13, said their neighbours‘ homes were burned down but as far as they can see from TV aerial shots, their house is still standing.

Ms Maceikaite said they were “very anxious“ about their home, adding: “When you look on a camera when it shows you from the sky it just freaks you out.”

Nikas said: “Our house is on the news and it’s the only house that hasn’t been burned so far.

Asked if they had seen or spoken to other residents, he said: “I saw my neighbour, he was OK, he was helping to put out the fires.”

The pair were trying to find their pet dog and cat with Ms Maceikaite saying: “The firefighters said if they heard a bark they would potentially break a door and if they’ve been rescued they supposed to have been brought here but in the main hotel they say they don’t know nothing about that.”

Residents were asking firefighters if their homes had survived the blaze. Credit: PA

Resident Janet Hickey, 70, who has terminal pancreatic cancer, said she was forced to leave all her cancer drugs behind as they were evacuated.

She said: “I’ve got all my cancer drugs in the fridge.”

Her husband Patrick Hickey, 71, added: “We had to leave everything.”

“We’re hoping against hope that our house is still there,” he added.

Homes and buildings in the village of Wennington are left in smoking piles of ruins. Credit: PA

Mrs Hickey said they are feeling “devastated”, adding: “We’ve been living there 50 years.

“I’m terminally ill so it’s not great to lose all that. I’m also an artist and all my paintings are there.”

Growing tearful she later added that she had spent 50 years building her garden and buying flowers from fairs to plant in it.

London Fire Brigade said 15 fire engines and around 100 firefighters were called to the scene at just after 1pm.

As temperatures passed the 40C high, the brigade dealt with an influx of 999 calls to its control room as smoke filled the air from a string of fires.

Fire surrounds another house in Wennington, east London

Dozens of homes appeared to be completely destroyed in the Wennington blaze and nearby fields were seen to be scorched.

A rescue centre for residents was set up at the Premier Inn on New Road.

Lizzie Pittman, from Aveley in Essex, who works at some stables by the roundabout, said she was looking after the five horses who had been removed from their stables in Wennington, which had burnt down.

Ms Pittman said: “This is your worst nightmare.

“You can see it getting closer and closer.

A firefighter tackles a blaze in the village of Wennington, east London amid the 40C heatwave. Credit: PA

“People are losing their houses but that’s bricks and mortar.

“People are losing their livestock.”

Freya Gutteridge, 23, from nearby Hornchurch, said : “I noticed the fire in Wennington when I went to lunch at two and since then our whole office has just been watching – everywhere we look there’s a new one.

“We’re all really worried, the wind is strong and we’re seeing on the news that loads of houses are on fire and there isn’t enough fire engines.

“It’s crazy. Most of us in the office live really locally so we’re all worried about families’ houses at the moment.

“We know that if we were in any danger that we would be evacuated but there are petrol stations around and things like that so we’re more scared for everyone in the area.”

Charred remains of home in Wennington, east London

London Fire Brigade's Patrick Goulbourne, said: “The brigade remains ready to respond to incidents.

“However, we want to ensure our resources are available for people who really need our help.

“If you see a fire smouldering, please don’t hesitate to call us.

“The sooner we know about a fire, the sooner we can bring it under control and prevent it from spreading further, reducing the need for us to mobilise additional resources.

The Wennington blaze is separate from a grass fire raging south of the location across the River Thames, off the A2 near Durrell Dene, in Joyce Green, Dartford, Kent.

Footage has captured both blazes from the air, showing the fires sending plumes of smoke billowing across London and Kent.

Fire crews walk past charred homes in Wennington. Credit: PA

Firefighters battled to control the blazes as temperatures in the areas hit around 40C amid the heatwave blasting the nation.

By Tuesday evening, Firefighters were unaware of the full extent of the damage caused by blazes which affected houses, schools and churches across London, with crews describing scenes as “absolute hell”.

Elsewhere, grass fires breaking out led to a string of callouts for London Fire Brigade.

Residents were being evacuated from their homes and people were taken to hospital amid fires in the capital as temperatures soared to more than 40C on Tuesday afternoon.

Two “large-scale” incidents took place in Wennington and Upminster, while flames destroyed buildings and ravaged nearby fields.

Firefighters respond to the blaze in Wennington that left houses in wrecks. Credit: PA

Several other significant incidents also occurred, with people urged not to have barbecues or bonfires due to the “unprecedented” challenges crews face.

Jonathan Smith, assistant commissioner at LFB, told the PA news agency: “We’ve had a range of incidents today, obviously a number of which have been the result of the tinderbox dry woodland and grassland both in central London and in the suburbs.

“This has caused rapid fire spread which has impacted on properties, people’s homes, schools, churches and other types of buildings.

Severe fire damage was visible throughout the village of Wennington. Credit: PA

“At the moment, because of the sheer number of incidents we’ve been attending today, we will be pulling all of that information together and making sure every incident is thoroughly investigated.

“Once we’ve done that we’ll be able to give an accurate picture of exactly the incidents we’ve attended, how many homes have been affected and if there have been any casualties.”

He said that Tuesday evening would be “critical” in ensuring the fires are kept under control, adding: “It would be premature to say we are out the other end of this incident”.

The London Ambulance Service said the total number of people taken to hospital may not be known until Wednesday morning.

Mr Khan said LFB had received more than 1,600 calls for assistance by late Tuesday afternoon.

He also said people should not be having barbecues anywhere in London, including in parks and private gardens – as well as on patios and balconies.

The fires being tackled in London on Tuesday afternoon include:

  • Thirty fire engines dealing with a grass fire on Pea Lane in Upminster.

  • Fifteen fire engines tackling a fire on The Green in Wennington.

  • Twelve fire engines tackling a fire involving garden fencing and trees on Uxbridge Road in Pinner.

  • Ten fire engines tackling a restaurant fire on Green Lanes in Southgate.

  • Eight fire engines tackling a grass fire on Oaks Road in Croydon.

  • Eight fire engines tackling a grass fire on Ballards Road in Dagenham.

  • Eight fire engines tackling a fire on The Broadway in Wembley.

  • Six fire engines tackling a grass fire on Sunningfields Crescent in Hendon.

  • Four fire engines tackling a grass fire on Chapel View in Croydon.

  • Four fire engines tackling a fire on Sidcup Road in Eltham.

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