UK ‘woefully under-prepared’ to face increasing threat of wildfires
- New report uncovers absence of UK-wide strategy and planning for wildfires
- Cuts and under-resourcing leave fire service at risk of breaking in face of threat
- Fire Brigades Union demands urgent action and investment to protect lives and property
A new report into UK wildfire resilience has been published by the Fire Brigades Union, uncovering a ‘dangerous’ lack of UK-wide strategy, planning and investment.
The report reveals the extent of the fragmentation and under-resourcing of fire and rescue services. Along with a lack of national standards or plans, this has already resulted in firefighters stretched beyond limits at incidents according to reports between 2011 and 2022. During the last decade, almost 12,000 firefighter jobs have been cut while wildfire risk has increased, impacting UK-wide resilience.
None of England’s Fire and Rescue National Frameworks have referred explicitly to the risk of wildfires, despite wildfires being listed as a threat to national security on the National Risk Register since 2013.
Research has found that wildfire preparation remains a ‘postcode lottery’, with no statutory obligation for including the risk in local strategies.
The publication follows the hottest June on record in the UK and record-breaking September temperatures. The union argues that devastating wildfires across Europe this summer must be taken as a warning to prepare for rising temperatures over the coming years.
The union calls for a UK wide strategy and standards to prepare for wildfires; a statutory duty on the government and fire and rescue authorities to prepare; central government investment in the fire and rescue service; and funding for necessary wildfire training and PPE.
Matt Wrack, Fire Brigades Union general secretary said:
“As the climate changes, global temperatures are fuelling increasingly devastating wildfires.
“Understaffing and cuts mean that the fire service is woefully under-prepared for the task ahead. Firefighters are already being pushed to breaking point responding to wildfires across the UK.
“These fires have been on the national risk register for a decade. We need a resilient, expanded fire and rescue service to ensure firefighters can respond to this threat.
“But instead of improvements we’ve had austerity and fragmentation, with a postcode lottery for wildfire response.
“To protect communities everywhere, we urgently need UK-wide standards, a coherent strategy, and investment.”