February fires: Unseasonably warm weather sets Britain’s countryside ablaze

Firefighters spent the night tackling wildfires in England and Scotland

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As warm temperatures in Britain broke February records, sporadic wildfire sparked by the winter heatwave broke out across the country.

On Marsden Moor in the north of England, 30 firefighters spent about five hours tackling a “ferocious” blaze stretching over 3 to 4 square kilometres of moorland which started on Tuesday evening.

West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service said the fire spread quickly because the top layer of moorland had dried out due to the warm weather.

“It was one of the of the highest flame fronts we have seen with flames of up to 2 metres high and it was moving fast across the moorland,” said station manager Adam Greenwood.

The fire service said the blaze was now extinguished but crew remained on the scene in case another fire broke out.

Meanwhile around the same time on Tuesday, firefighters in Scotland spent the night trying to control flames which engulfed Arthur’s Seat, a group of hills situated to the east of Edinburgh.

To the south of England, two fires ripped through Ashdown Forest in East Sussex. The cause of the two blazes is still under investigation, although East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service said the unusually high temperatures had made the ground drier and more susceptible to wildfire.

In south-west London a high of 21.2°C was recorded on Tuesday, warmer than some parts of the Middle East. For comparison, on the same day temperatures in Abu Dhabi reached a high of 24°C.

The record-breaking heatwave has led to concerns that Britain is experiencing the effects of global climate change.

“This warm weather cannot be dismissed as a one-off,” Caroline Lucas, the Green Party’s only member of parliament, wrote in the Independent online newspaper on Wednesday. “This is part of a wider global trend of record-breaking temperatures and extreme weather patterns.”

The unseasonably high temperatures in February contrast starkly with this time last year, when Britain was in the grip of the so-called “Beast from the East”, which left the country covered in a blanket of snow.

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