A SEVENTY-SIX per cent increase in wildfires this summer in Worcestershire and Herefordshire is largely due to the scorching heatwave, according to the fire service’s area commander.

Figures released this week by Press Association revealed there had been 248 fires reported on grassland, woodland and crops in May, June and July this year across both counties.

This compares to 141 over the same time period last year and just 78 in 2014.

Hereford and Worcester Fire service area commander Guy Palmer put the increase down to the exceptionally dry weather.

“This year’s hot dry summer contributed significantly to an increase in the number of wildfires which HWFRS was called to from May to July,” he told the Worcester News.

“Crews attended major crop and grassland fires where the dry conditions were a significant factor.”

He said some of these were the result of discarded waste which caught alight, as well as an abandoned barbecue which caused the summer’s “biggest wildfire” on the Malvern Hills.

Over 100 fire service personnel battled the Hills fire from July 2 to 5, which had spread across five acres of grass and shrubbery near the West of England Quarry.

Fire crews at the time had said the hot and dry weather had seen the fire spread more quickly.

Mr Palmer went on to say: “Training for wildfires is part of the HWFRS resilience planning, and specialist equipment including off-road vehicles, backpacks, blowers, and water carrier vehicles, are strategically located around the two counties for the best response times.

“However, prevention is always better than the need for response and so we encourage the public to always be responsible and to ensure they don’t leave rubbish in the open, or use disposable BBQs on dry grass or in any areas of outstanding beauty.”