The ongoing drought in Belgium has resulted in trees, shrubs, hedges and plants going dry, making them extra susceptible to igniting when flames are near, which is why Antwerp's fire brigade has called on people to work together to prevent fires.
There is a very high risk of fires in forests, nature reserves and parks, which is why Flanders banned smoking and bonfires permanently in these locations. However, in gardens, there is also a larger risk of fires breaking out, which is why residents and visitors are being asked people to be extra careful in the coming days, as a heatwave engulfs Belgium.
"The recent fires in London show that natural fires can also have disastrous consequences in an urban context," Marie De Clercq, spokesperson for the Fire Brigade Zone Antwerp, said in a press release, referring to incidents that saw grass fires spreading to properties and destroying them during the heatwave in mid-July.
Currently, the warning code for wildfire is "orange," however as temperatures near 35°C later this week, it is possible that it will be raised to "code red."
In a post on Twitter, the fire brigade in Antwerp called on people to help prevent fires in the coming days by "postponing barbecues or campfires," not throwing away cigar butts and not leaving rubbish and glass lying around. It also urged people to call 112 immediately if they see smoke or fire.
The service added that it is extremely alert at the moment and that neighbouring fire brigades are ready to assist each other with tankers or specialised vehicles for natural fires.
"During the hot days, attention is also paid to sufficient replacement of fire fighting personnel during possible fires and interventions," a press release read.
Meanwhile, in Wallonia, the province of Walloon Brabant is following the examples of the provinces of Liège, Namur and Luxembourg, and is taking measures to prevent the risk of fire on its territory in view of the drought.
- Last July was third warmest on record globally
- Forest fires in Belgium becoming more frequent
- Fireworks increasingly cancelled due to risk of fire
"In view of the ongoing drought situation, the current heat wave, the state of the vegetation and the weather forecasts, a police order aimed at preventing fire risks has been issued," a press release from the governor, Gilles Mahieu, read.
This prohibits any open-air fire in forest areas, fields, meadows, embankments and gardens, barbecues and campfires in the public domain and in forest areas, and fireworks, among other things.
The decree will apply to the entire territory and will be in place until the end of the month, however, it could be extended or lifted earlier depending on the evolution of the weather situation.