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Major Fire

Fires can start for many reasons, including:

  • Accidents such as electrical faults, human activity which combines ignition sources and fuel such as barbecues or bonfires, or even farmers harvesting crops.
  • Malicious activity/arson.
  • Infrastructure incidents such as sparks from electricity lines or rail transport.
  • Natural phenomena such as lightning or protracted spells of hot, dry weather.

If conditions or circumstances support it, any fire has the potential to develop into a major fire.

How could this affect me?

Summer 2022 saw a lengthy, protracted period of very hot, very dry, weather. These extreme conditions resulted in a set of natural circumstances which created an elevated risk of fire across the Thames Valley. The conditions meant fire breaking out was not only more likely, but the speed at which a fire might spread was increased and the impacts of a fire more widespread. It also impacted on the health, welfare and wellbeing arrangements for those responding to the incidents. The 19 July was an especially busy day for firefighters across Thames Valley, with temperatures above 37 degrees, humidity readings less than 30 per cent and a strong prevailing wind. These factors combined to produce the ideal conditions for wildfire. More than 300 calls were received by the Thames Valley fire services that day, and two fires were declared as Major Incidents in Buckinghamshire.

Get prepared
  • How to prepare

    Reduce fire hazards in your home


    Countryside Safety

    • Avoid open fires in the countryside. Always have them in safe, designated areas
    • Put out cigarettes and other smoking materials properly before you leave your vehicle
    • Don’t leave bottles or glass in woodlands. Sunlight shining through glass can start a fire. Take them home or put them in a waste or recycling bin
    • If you see a fire in the countryside, report it immediately
    • Don’t attempt to tackle fires that can’t be put out with a bucket of water – leave the area as soon as possible
    • Never throw cigarette ends out of car windows – they could start a fire and endanger lives


    • Site the bonfire well away from houses, garages, sheds, fences, overhead cables, trees and shrubs
    • Never leave the bonfire burning unattended
    • Build the stack so that it is stable and will not collapse outwards or to one side
    • Never use flammable liquids – paraffin or petrol – to light the fire
    • Don’t burn foam-filled furniture, aerosols, tins of paint and bottles
    • Keep everyone away from the fire – especially children, who must be supervised at all times
    • Pour water on the embers before leaving


    • Follow the safety instructions provided with disposable barbecues. Never use a barbecue indoors
    • Never leave a barbecue unattended
    • Make sure your barbecue is well away from sheds, fences, trees, shrubs or garden waste
    • Keep children, pets and garden games away from the cooking area
    • After cooking, make sure the barbecue is cool before moving it
    • Empty ashes onto bare garden soil, not into dustbins or wheelie bins. If they’re hot, they can melt the plastic and cause a fire
    • Store gas cylinders outside, away from direct sunlight and frost
    • Make sure the tap is turned off before changing the gas cylinder
    • After cooking, turn the gas supply off first and then the barbecue control. This will stop any gas from leaking

    Camping and Caravan

    • Fit and regularly test a smoke alarm in your caravan
    • To avoid a build-up of poisonous gases make sure the caravan is ventilated, and never block air vents
    • Never use candles in or near a tent – torches are safer
    • Don’t smoke inside tents
    • Never bring a barbeque inside a tent or caravan. They create deadly carbon monoxide gas which will soon fill an enclosed space suffocating all sleeping inside
    • Have your appliances regularly tested including electric blankets
  • What to do during a fire
    • If there is a fire, get out, stay out and call 999 and follow the advice of the fire and rescue service
    • DO NOT use a lift
    • If you are moving or trapped in smoke, stay close to the floor where the air is cleaner
    • Never re-enter your home until the fire and rescue service has made it safe
  • What to do after a fire

    Contact the Red Cross for emergency help with accommodation, clothing, food etc as well as help dealing with insurance companies

    Contact your local council. They may be able to help you with emergency housing