Stables evacuated on ‘busiest day since World War II’ as heatwave fires take hold

  • Fires caused “significant” damage and yards were forced to evacuate in frightening scenes during the UK’s record-breaking heatwave yesterday (19 July).

    A total of 15 fire services across Britain declared major incidents, including London, Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire, Yorkshire and the east of England.

    The National Horseracing College (NRC) sustained “significant damage” to one of its barns in a fire, started by powerlines crossing the Yorkshire site. All students, staff and horses are safe.

    “The reaction of learners and staff in the face of this very challenging situation has been fantastic,” said NHC chief executive colonel Stephen Padgett.

    “The fire brigade responded despite difficult conditions to minimise the damage and to prevent the incident from being any worse than it already was.

    “Appreciation of and gratitude for the efforts of all involved. Business will be affected but we are already making plans to sustain operations. Onwards and upwards for the college.”

    Further south,The London Fire Brigade recorded its “busiest day since World War II”. Control took more than 2,670 calls and crews dealt with more than 1,146 incidents.

    More than 40 houses and shops, as well as garages, farm buildings, vehicles and outbuildings, were destroyed after grass fires spread to buildings in the London area, which included Wennington, Dagenham and Kenton. A total of 16 firefighters were injured, and two were taken to hospital.

    At least 14 properties were destroyed in Norfolk, five in Lincolnshire, and more elsewhere across the country.

    In Kent, workers and volunteers helped move horses and other animals at Spirit’s Rest Animal Sanctuary to safety from a large grass fire in surrounding fields.

    Serious wildfires are also affecting swathes of mainland Europe.

    Thousands of people have had to leave their homes in southwest France, as violent forest fires affect the Gironde region in the southwest of the country, particularly Landiras and La Teste-de-Buch.

    La Teste-de-Buch racecourse is home to 370 horses in training and the majority of these have been moved.

    Racecourses at Bordeaux, Pau, Langon and Mont de Marsan, plus private yards such as Haras des Faunes and Haras de Saubouas have welcomed the equine evacuees.

    A total of 15 horses remain at La Teste-de-Buch, which has now become a base for firefighters.

    The situation is evolving rapidly, but course president Jacques Le Dantec gave a cautiously hopeful update in a video on Tuesday night.

    He spoke of the solidarity showed by the racing and equestrian communities, who offered their help, services and transport.

    He added that a 50m-wide “firewall” has been cleared to protect the racecourse from the fire, should it reach them, and plans are in place to get everyone – humans and the remaining horses – to safety should they need to leave in an emergency.

    Greece, Spain and Portugal are also experiencing devastating fires connected to the heatwave.

    Among those affected in Portugal was the A Palmeirinha riding centre in the Algarve, which was destroyed by fire. All horses were saved.

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