Extreme heatwaves increasing likelihood of catastrophic wildfires

If certain conditions are met, wildfires can rapidly spread out of control and cause irreparable damage to wildlife, people and communities. As we anticipate the hottest summer on record, we’re faced with an increasing risk of devastation. Here’s how you can do your bit to help to save nature from damage this summer.

Posted 5 min read
Burnt pine in the aftermath of a wildfire.
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The increase in temperatures and extreme weather events mean it's hard to ignore that we’re facing a climate emergency. The Met Office says record-breaking high temperatures are becoming more frequent, long-lasting and intense. This year, we’re anticipating the hottest summer on record.  
As a result, this extreme weather is increasing the scale, intensity and frequency of wildfires all over the world.   
Together, we can all take small steps to help wildlife. Much of the destruction and devastation caused by wildfires is easily preventable, as most wildfires are sparked by human activity, often by accident.

Wildfire prevention tips

The biggest action we can take to prevent wildfire damage is to stop them from starting. With thanks to you, we’ll be able to take care of the UK’s precious wildlife this summer by following some simple guidance: 

  • Looking to dine alfresco? Avoid using disposable barbecues and pack a pre-prepared picnic to accompany you on your travels. If you’re visiting a nature reserve, then please note that barbecues and campfires are not permitted on RSPB England nature reserves. 

  • Remember to leave no trace when enjoying your meal in nature. Make sure you take your litter home along with any food waste. Food waste can cause harm to our resident wildlife, while litter can cause fires to spread. You can help further by litter-picking any debris left by others. 

  • If you’re visiting an RSPB reserve(hyperlink: Visit a nature reserve (, then grab a bite to eat in one of our cafés. You’ll be saved from carrying any extra baggage while you’re outdoors enjoying nature, plus you’ll reduce the risk of causing any disturbance. You’ll also be supporting conservation while you eat — the money generated from our cafés goes straight back into saving nature.  

  • Don’t throw cigarettes on the ground, and ensure they are fully put out before you put them in the bin. When visiting a reserve, smokers are asked to take extra care when smoking and to extinguish cigarettes in a safe manner. 

  • Keep glass objects out of direct sunlight, as the glare can start fires. 

  • If you see a fire on an RSPB reserve or in the surrounding countryside, report it immediately to the Fire & Rescue Service on 999. Early detection can prevent it from developing into a large wildfire incident. Know where you are, apps like What3Words can help with this.

Picnic at Ynys-Hir overlooking the lake.

Stopping the spread of wildfire

Dry vegetation easily catches alight and provides the fuel to allow a fire to continue to spread.  As we’re faced with high heats and a lack of rainfall, it’s never been more important to stay vigilant.

James McNeil, Wildfire Lead for the National Fire Chiefs Council, said: “Wildfires can ravage the local wildlife, destroying ecosystems in a matter of hours that have taken years to build up. Most heath fires start with human intervention, whether that’s carelessness or a deliberate act, so we need everyone who enjoys our beautiful open spaces to work with us to help protect them.”

Remember, if you see a fire in the countryside, report it immediately.

Scorched pine and peat in Corrimony RSPB Nature Reserve.

Nature havens devastated by wildfire

Last summer we saw firsthand the damage that wildfire can do when a blaze destroyed around half of RSPB Corrimonyin the Highlands, Scotland. The fire devastated the homes of wildlife such as Black Grouse and Scottish Crossbill at a key time of year. 25 years of recreating and restoring native forest went up in smoke.

Wildfire also destroyed vital wildlife habitat in the Peak District, on land managed by the RSPB and National Trust, as part of the Eastern Moors Partnership. The fire engulfed parts of Burbage Moor and the Lady Cannings Plantation, with Derbyshire Fire and Rescue Service, Eastern Moors ranger team, National Trust rangers and the Peak District National Park ranger team working together to put out the blaze.

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