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'Help us reduce the number of blazes in the heatwave' - Sheffield firefighter's message as dry weather continues

Firefighters at one of numerous grassland fires.
Firefighters at one of numerous grassland fires.
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A senior Sheffield firefighter has urged people to report arsonists and asked parents to speak to their children about the dangers of fire as the heatwave continues across South Yorkshire.

Matt Gillatt, station manager for community safety at South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue, said the force dealt with more than 700 outdoor fires between June 18 and July 18 - with about two thirds of them being started deliberately.

Mr Gillatt said at its peak the service's control room handled 363 calls in just 24 hours and asked for the public's help to reduce the strain on firefighters.

He said: "The weather has obviously had an effect just because of the volume of the calls. Crews are pretty much going from call to call or spending a significant amount of time at incidents, including a number of days at some.

"Usually we go out to fires, put them out and then that's it but because we have had such dry weather the ground is so dry and the fire is deep routed and the fires will break out again and again."

Mr Gillatt said extra crews had been brought on-duty across the county, including the use of retained firefighters and 'small incident units', who deal with grass fires.

He added: "We can't stop people having bonfires but we ask people that if they are going to have one, they let us know so that we're not called out unnecessarily. We also ask that people have a hose pipe out and make sure the fire isn't to close to the property or any dry shrubbery.

"It's same sort of advice for anyone having a barbecue. Make sure if you're using a disposable barbecue that it's not placed on anything flammable and only dispose of them when it's fully extinguished."

Mr Gillatt also asked people not to leave litter when out and about as plastic and glass bottles could spark a fire.

He said: "It's not just at this time of year but parents should have a word with their children about the dangers of fire because in dry weather small fires can spread quite quickly.

"We would also ask people to report those who are deliberately starting fires to police by calling 101 or Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555111."

Mr Gillatt also thanked everyone in the fire service for their efforts over the summer.

He said: "It's a real team effort. People see the firefighters going out and putting fires out but everyone has done and is doing an amazing job. From the control room, who have handled an amazing number of calls to the support teams."