Britain battles wildfires after record April heat

4th May 2011, Comments 0 comments

Britain was battling rare wildfire outbreaks on Wednesday following the warmest April on record, with Queen Elizabeth II's Balmoral country estate among the areas hit.

The unusually warm weather, combined with months of low rainfall, has left many patches of land throughout the country tinder-dry and prone to fire.

Firefighters have been tackling blazes in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland in rarely-witnessed scenes in temperate Britain.

A fire broke out Monday on a large area of gorse and heather at Balmoral, in eastern Scotland, where the royal family traditionally spend their summer break. Firefighters brought it under control on Tuesday.

The Met Office national weather service said last month was the warmest April on record in Britain, with an average temperature of 10.7 degrees Celsius (51.3 degrees Fahrenheit), with some areas seeing temperatures up to five Celsius warmer than usual.

"The dry April for many follows a dry March when less than half the normal rainfall fell across the UK," plus a drier than average winter, the Met Office said.

They said the usual westerly winds bringing rain off the Atlantic Ocean had been blocked by recent weather patterns.

A spokesman for Scotland's Highlands and Islands Fire and Rescue Service warned: "As the dry weather conditions continue, there is a continuing severe risk of further fires occurring.

"Wildfires are very dangerous, as they spread very quickly and can change direction without warning."

© 2011 AFP

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