Drought brings tough times

A CONTINUING lack of rainfall in the district has forced several agencies to warn of tough times ahead as the growing risk of field fires poses a threat to crops and houses.

A CONTINUING lack of rainfall in the district has forced several agencies to warn of tough times ahead as the growing risk of field fires poses a threat to crops and houses in the area.

Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service has already seen a dramatic rise in garden and field fires in the last few days and its concerns over possible damage to property and crops has been echoed by the National Farmers Union (NFU) in the wake of the driest first six months for 80 years.

According to figures released by the Cambridgeshire Rainfall Organisation, which monitors local rainfall, the county had just 30 to 50 millimeters of rainfall in June - 70 per cent less than the average.

And in the three months to May, 120 millimeters of rain fell across the county, making it the driest spring since 1997.

Garden and field fires have been prevalent across the county because of the dry spell, with the fire service reporting a 40 per cent increase in call outs over the last week.

In East Cambridgeshire alone there have been seven incidents of fire in open spaces in the past week, with the most recent incident taking place at a refuse dump in Longchamp Drive, Ely on Monday.

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Wendy Coleman, community safety officer, said: “The high number of incidents last week demonstrates the risk of accidental fires during the warm summer months.

“All these fires are preventable, as long as people remain aware of the risks when they are making the most of the warmer weather with bonfires and barbecues.”

The NFU meanwhile has warned farmers in the district to be wary of crop fires and overheating machinery in the wake of the dry spell, a spokesman said: “With the continuing dry summer and harvest about to start in earnest, the NFU is urging members to ensure that combines are cleaned, fire extinguishers are in place and that precautions are in place to deal with a fire going through the crop.

“And if the dry weather continues, crop fires become a real possibility. Keeping a tractor and sprayer, filled with water, on hand to lay a firebreak if a fire starts is a useful way of avoiding a fire getting out of hand and destroying large areas of cropping.”

And the situation it seems is not likely to improve dramatically any time soon, despite showers earlier this week MET office forecasts for the next fortnight suggest that rainfall will be below average across the region with dry and warm conditions set to continue.

There was some good news for residents and farmers amid all the warnings however, as a spokesman for Anglian Water confirmed to the Ely Standard that the water giant was ‘as sure as it could be’ that there would not be a hosepipe ban this year, “Our reservoirs are around 85 per cent full, and the underground aquifers we take water from are also looking pretty healthy for the time of year.

“These two sources account for about 95 per cent of the water we supply to our customers, and their healthy condition means no hosepipe ban this year.”

Anglian Waters top tips for saving water

Don’t leave the tap running while brushing your teeth.

Use a bowl for washing vegetables and dishes.

For a cold drink, fill a covered jug and put it in the fridge instead of running the tap.

Take a shower instead of a bath, but remember a power shower can use twice as much water as a bath.

Wait until you have a full load before doing your washing.

Water at dusk so less water evaporates.

Collect rainwater in water butts and buckets, and then re-use it in the garden.