Additional wildfires break out in Europe as extreme heat continues

Multiple wildland-urban interface fires in greater London destroy dozens of homes

Multiple wildland-urban interface fires destroyed structures United Kingdom
Multiple wildland-urban interface fires destroyed structures in the UK July 19, 2022. Sky News.

On Tuesday the wildland fire danger north of London reached the “Very Extreme” stage which is three steps up from High which is followed by Very High and Extreme.

Highest ever temperatures were experienced in the United Kingdom. London Heathrow airport was among six locations to reach 104 degrees (40 Celsius) on Tuesday, shattering Britain’s all-time temperature record after the country declared a national emergency, well above the 2019 record of 101.7 degrees (38.7 Celsius).

Wildland fire danger in the UK, July 19, 2022
Wildland fire danger in the UK, July 19, 2022.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan said on Twitter: “London Fire Brigade has just declared a major incident in response to a huge surge in fires across the capital today. This is critical: @LondonFire is under immense pressure.”

The agency listed 11 fires they were dealing with Tuesday at 3 p.m. local time. At least 10 involve vegetation:

  • 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.
Multiple wildland-urban interface fires destroyed structures United Kingdom
Multiple wildland-urban interface fires destroyed structures in the UK July 19, 2022. Sky News.

Other wildfires are also occurring in the UK.

Hundreds of deaths have been attributed to the heat in Spain and Portugal since last week, and wildfires have forced tens of thousands of people out of their homes there, as well as in France.

In Spain a man who was building a fireline with an excavator abandoned the equipment as it was overrun by fire. He fled through a field with his clothes on fire and was transported to a hospital.

In southwestern France, wildfires have destroyed at least 19,000 hectares (47,000 acres) as temperatures rose to 108.8 degrees (42.7 Celsius) Monday, when dozens of locations set all-time highs. Conditions eased Tuesday when  a cool oceanic air mass arrived overnight.

In the United States night time temperatures are rising, which can affect fuel moisture, fuel temperature, and lower than average minimum relative humidity, all resulting in higher wildland fire danger. It also appears to be happening in Europe, at least recently.

From the Washington Post:

The United Kingdom not only posted its highest maximum daytime temperatures on record, but also its maximum overnight temperatures — with some locations not dipping below the upper 70s (25 to 26 Celsius). The lack of nighttime cooling was of grave concern to health officials as only a tiny percentage of British homes have air-conditioning.

By Wednesday, the core of the heat is forecast to focus over central and eastern Germany, Poland and southern Scandinavia as the heat dome is nudged eastward.

From Friday into the weekend, a new heat dome will build over southern Europe with extremely high temperatures over Spain, France and Italy, which have already endured multiple bouts of punishing heat this summer.

Multiple wildland-urban interface fires destroyed structures United Kingdom
Multiple wildland-urban interface fires destroyed structures in the UK July 19, 2022. Sky News.
Multiple wildland-urban interface fires destroyed structures United Kingdom
A farmer uses spray equipment to check the spread of a grass fire in the UK July 19, 2022. Sky News.
Multiple wildland-urban interface fires destroyed structures United Kingdom
Multiple wildland-urban interface fires destroyed structures in the UK July 19, 2022. Sky News.
Heat Sources detected in Europe fires wildfires
Heat Sources detected in Europe by satellites, for the 7-day period ending July 19, 2022.

Hot dry weather leads to numerous wildfires in Europe

Weather forecast, Europe, for July 18, 2022
Weather forecast, Europe, for July 18, 2022. WeatherOnlne. For reference, 40C is 104F, and 35C is 95F.

As Western Europe enters its second heat wave in the last 30 days the maximum temperatures are predicted to set records. Residents in the United Kingdom could experience conditions none of them have ever seen as the temperature rises to 104F degrees (40C) or more, prompting officials to issue the first ever red “extreme heat” warning for Monday and Tuesday.

Farther south in Europe, in southwest France on Saturday there were temperature peaks of close to 108F (42C), as the city of Biarritz broke a maximum temperature record. Nearly three-quarters of the country’s population, 45 million people, were affected by red or orange heat alerts in what is the earliest heat wave ever recorded in France.

The hot, dry weather has resulted in numerous wildfires in Britain, Spain, Portugal, and France over the last several days, bringing an earlier than usual start of the fire season. Firefighters in London, yes, London, have dealt with more than 800 vegetation fires since the start of last month to July 12.

wildfire in the Bordeaux region of southwest France
Firefighters work on a wildfire in the Bordeaux region of southwest France. AP.

Two blazes near the coastal town of Arcachon in France’s southwest Gironde region have burned more than 24,000 acres since Tuesday. About 3,000 firefighters assisted by firefighting aircraft are battling the blazes in southern France.

On Friday a pilot was killed while working on a fire in Northeast Portugal when an Air Tractor AT-802AF Fire Boss went down near the town of Torre de Moncorvo after scooping water on the Douro river.

Spain is also working on several large fires that have burned tens of thousands of acres. In southern Andalusia, 3,000 people were evacuated after a fire started near the village of Mijas in the province of Malaga. Around 200 firefighters supported by 18 aircraft are assigned to the incident.

European heat wave
BBC weather forecaster Ben Rich.

BBC weather forecaster Ben Rich explained that the current heat wave is caused by the jet stream shifting north and a portion of it breaking off to form a low pressure area west of Portugal, a cutoff low, with south winds pumping heat north into Western Europe including Spain, France and the UK.

Combined drought indicator Europe
Combined drought indicator last 10 days in June, 2022. European Commission’s Drought Observatory..

Much of Western Europe and the southern UK are in drought ranging from warning to alert levels, according to the European Commission’s Drought Observatory. The dry soils allow more surface heating and the result is record-setting temperatures and lower than average moisture in the vegetation, establishing conditions that are conducive to large wildfires with high resistance to control.

The video below is a summary of current wildfires in Western Europe.

UK Firefighters battle a wildfire at Marsden Moor

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At one point the fire had a 2-mile wide flaming front

Marsden Moor fire
Marsden Moor fire in the UK, April, 2021. Photo by West Yorkshire Fire & Rescue Service.

About 70 firefighters have been battling a wildfire in the United Kingdom since Sunday night on Marsden Moor.

The firefighters thought they had the spread stopped Monday afternoon, but it flared up again overnight.

From the Manchester Evening News Tuesday at 8:13 p.m.:

A spokesman for West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service confirmed that the blaze had grown, covering over two square miles of moorland.

They said: “The fire currently has a flame front of 2 miles, with an area of 2 square miles affected by the blaze.

“There are currently around 70 firefighters on scene working with partners.

From a BBC article about the fire Tuesday evening:

Fireworks have been found on moorland where a wildfire has been burning since Sunday.

A BBC crew filming at the scene discovered a box  labelled Cosmic Chaos on Marsden Moor, near Huddersfield. The cause of the blaze, which has spread across 2 sq miles (5 sq km) is not yet known, but bonfires, fireworks and barbecues are banned on the National Trust site.

Marsden Moor fire
Marsden Moor fire

Fire whirl recorded on video in the UK

Fire Whirl
Fire Whirl — Leicestershire Fire & Rescue Service

I don’t often associate extreme wildland fire behavior with the United Kingdom, but firefighters with the Leicestershire Fire and Rescue Service grabbed some video of this impressive fire whirl near Swadlincote, a town in Derbyshire, England.

Fire Whirl

Fire Whirl
Fire Whirl — Leicestershire Fire & Rescue Service

We have written about similar phenomenons several times on Wildfire Today. Here is an excerpt from a 2016 article, “Defining fire whirls and fire tornados”:

The news media sometimes calls any little fire whirl a “fire tornado”, or even a “firenado”. We found out today that these and related terms (except for “firenado”) were, if not founded, at least documented and defined in 1978 by a researcher for the National Weather Service in Missoula, David W. Goens. He grouped fire whirls into four classes:

  1. Fire Devils. They are a natural part of fire turbulence with little influence on fire behavior or spread. They are usually on the order of 3 to 33 feet in diameter and have rotational velocities less than 22 MPH.
  2. Fire Whirls. A meld of the fire, topograph, and meteorological factors. These play a significant role in fire spread and hazard to control personnel. The average size of this class is usually 33 to 100 feet, with rotational velocities of 22 to 67 MPH.
  3. Fire Tornadoes. These systems begin to dominate the large scale fire dynamics. They lead to extreme hazard and control problems. In size, they average 100 to 1,000 feet in diameter and have rotational velocities up to 90 MPH.
  4. Fire Storm. Fire behavior is extremely violent. Diameters have been observed to be from 1,000 to 10,000 feet and winds estimated in excess of 110 MPH. This is a rare phenomenon and hopefully one that is so unlikely in the forest environment that it can be disregarded.”

Saddleworth Moor fire in England contained; hot temperatures to linger

Firefighters work to contain a wildfire the scorched hundreds of acres on Saddleworth Moor, near Manchester in the United Kingdom. Photo courtesy Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service

Firefighters in the United Kingdom have contained a wildfire burning through the rolling, grassy hills near Manchester, but prolonged hot weather is setting the stage for an unusually active fire season in Britain.

The fires have burned since Sunday on Saddleworth Moor east of Manchester. The location — and rarity— of fires in the area has led to some stunning photos, too.

On Thursday, soldiers from the Royal Regiment of Scotland (4 SCOTS) arrived to provide to support to the approximately 100 Greater Manchester firefighters in Tameside. The fire was said to have burned approximately 2,000 acres, and residents who had been forced from their homes have been allowed to return.

“To have the support of the Armed Forces is extremely pleasing and I know that firefighters will be very appreciative of their help in tackling the multiple fires we are dealing with,” Assistant Chief Fire Officer Tony Hunter said Thursday.

“We have not seen any indication of any rainfall, so this incident is likely to be prolonged for a number of days,” he added. “The fire is contained at the moment, but we only need a change of wind direction to see the fire increase. We are working hard to keep on top of the blaze.”

Temperatures in Manchester have been above 80 degrees Fahrenheit, 10-15 degrees above normal for this time of year based on historical averages.

“The scale of this fire is staggering, and the damage to precious wildlife and unique habitat is unimaginable. There’s lots of speculation about the cause and that is a matter for police and fire service investigation,” said Richard Bailey, from the Peak District Moorland Group, in a statement.

“It is simply not correct for anyone to suggest that moorland management is at the root of this. The reason that this fire burned so fiercely is the extremely dry and hot weather conditions.”

Goal-oriented decision-making

Goal-oriented training can change the balance between reflective and reflexive processes.

Emergency responders have all been there — they rush to get to an incident, very quickly size it up, and take action. But award-winning research looks at incident managers that include a third step, actually formulating a plan of action. It has been argued that the development of explicit plans enables shared situational awareness and goals to support a common operating picture.

An article written by Dr. Sabrina Cohen-Hatton and R.C. Honey, Goal-Oriented Training Affects Decision-Making Processes in Virtual and Simulated Fire and Rescue Environments, received the Best Paper of the Year Award from the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied in 2016.

The research evaluated 48 incident commanders from 11 Fire and Rescue Services in the United Kingdom who had just received one-hour of training on incident management. They were divided into two groups, one with standard training and the other that included information about decision-making:

For Group Decision, slides were included that highlighted the use decision controls, which involved using a rapid mental check list of questions at key decision points: Why am I doing this (i.e., what are my goals)? What do I expect to happen (i.e., what are the anticipated consequences)? and Are the benefits worth the risks? When participants given goal-oriented training watched the footage, and were asked what actions they would take next, they were directed to answer with reference to the decision controls.

After the brief training the firefighters participated in immersive virtual reality (VR) simulations of a house fire, a traffic collision, and a “skip fire that spreads to an adjoining shop”.

The results showed that goal-oriented training affects the decision-making process in experienced incident commanders across a variety of simulated environments
ranging from immersive VR through to live burns. There is evidence that the training can change the balance between reflective and reflexive processes which could have the potential to increase the effectiveness of communication between members of firefighting crews and to improve