UK weather: Sunshine and showers on the bank holiday weekend
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The May bank holiday weekend got off to a warm start, with temperatures close to 20C and high humidity. Over the next day or so, Britons can look forward to 17C highs in some places, accompanied by wall-to-wall sunshine. But these conditions set the stage for wildfires by drying out foliage, and forecasters have identified at-risk areas.
The Met Office wildfire index shows that as people enjoy their second bank holiday weekend in as many weeks, emergency crews may have to battle intense fires in the southeast.
The Fire Severity Index (FSI) shows that if a wildfire ignited in most of England, there is a low risk that it would become severe.
Areas in the moderate risk category include Southampton, Portsmouth, Oxford, Leicester and Nottingham.
The Met Office has placed most of the country to the east of those areas under high alert.
If a fire ignited in London, Cambridge, Canterbury and Lincoln over the weekend, there is a high chance it could become severe.
There is a very high chance that wildfires in a few areas in the east and southeast will become severe.
They include parts of the country in and around Peterborough, towards the west, and some parts of London and Kent.
In London, the northeast around Ilford, East Ham and Woodford are at high risk.
A much larger section of the country to the east of Peterborough is at high risk, including the following areas:
- Downham Market
- Long Sutton Holbeach
Faversham and Tonbridge in Kent are under the same warnings.
As some parts of the country see an elevated threat of severe wildfires, data shows that risk is only intensifying.
Roughly 221 severe wildfires have ravaged the UK in 2022, already close to the 237 recorded in 2021, showing a growing trend.
Their increasing frequency but lack of publicity in the UK makes them uniquely dangerous.
British wildfires rarely make headlines due to their smaller scale compared with other countries, such as the US and Greece.
People don’t usually die in British blazes, but many of the very high-risk zones are currently in built-up areas.
Speaking to the i, Guillermo Rein, a professor of fire sciences at Imperial College London, said the lack of awareness could prove hazardous as the risk accelerates.
He said the UK is “not prepared” for wildfires, whether they are small and slow or not.
Professor Rein added that the “massive surprise” of wildfires creates a “safety hazard immediately”.
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