Several fires break out in London as temps swell to 104, setting all-time UK heat record

The thermometer read 39.1 degrees C -- 102 degrees F -- in Charlwood, England at midday Tuesday.

LONDON -- Temperatures in England reached levels never before seen in the recorded weather history of the United Kingdom Tuesday, creating a national heat emergency and triggering several fires across London.

London briefly held the UK's all-time heat record, reading the nation's first-ever temperature above 40 degrees C (104 degrees F).  The thermometer read 40.2 degrees C at Heathrow Airport at 12:50 p.m. local time Tuesday, since equaled barely surpassed by Coningsby, which eked to 40.3 degrees C, according to the UK's Met Office.  

The previous record was set about 45 minutes earlier when Charlwood, England, hit 39.1 degrees Celsius at midday Tuesday, according to the UK's Met Office. The record before Tuesday was 38.7 degrees C set in July 2019 in Cambridge.

That prior record now sits in at least 36th place. At least 35 places topped 38.7 degrees Tuesday, the Met Office said.

London may have been the first, but temperatures were forecast to climb over 40 degrees in many areas across southern England by late afternoon.

Several fires rage across London

The blistering heat has apparently triggered numerous fires across the London area, sending several hundred firefighters across the city into urgent duty and stretching their fire department ranks quite thin.

"We have declared a major incident in response to the fires we are dealing with during today's record-breaking heat wave," London Fire Brigade officials tweeted.  "Please only call us if it's an emergency."  Fire officials are also asking the city to ban all outdoor barbecues and bonfires for the day.

London Fire Brigade says they have enough staff so far to meet the firefighting challenges, but they are busy. A press release from their office counted 104 fire engines assigned to 10 significant fires burning across the city.

One fire burning The Broadway in Wembley has eight fire engines and 60 firefighters battling the blaze, according to the LFB.

In Wennington, a fire broke out in a residential area summoning another 15 fire engines and 100 firefighters, according to Sky News and the London Fire Brigade

Over in Croydon, dozens of firefighters have been battling multiple blazes in the neighborhood. A woman suffered smoke inhalation when a fire spread from a motorbike, car and fence outside her home, according to LFB.

Another 10 engines and 70 firefighters were battling a fire at a restaurant in Southgate.  Other firefighters headed to the Oxford Circus station on the London Underground after escalator brake pads overheated and began smoking.

More video showed a massive housing complex severely damaged by a fire in Hornchurch.

UK not built to withstand triple digits 

Tuesday's heat is the second day of extreme heat in the nation that is more accustomed to summer temperatures in the 70s Fahrenheit.

"Keep in mind temperatures in the UK tend to be mild and the infrastructure simply wasn't built to handle this type of heat," says FOX News correspondent Ryan Chilcote.

It was so hot in the United Kingdom on Monday that the runway at the country’s largest air force base "melted," according to a report.


Sky News reported that flights were halted at Royal Air Force Base Brize Norton in Oxfordshire because the "runway had melted." The report came as temperatures soared to 95 degrees at the base Monday afternoon. Officials at London's Luton Airport said in a tweet that they were working to repair a defect in the runway resulting from the high temperatures. Operations have since resumed.

The U.K. Met Office issued the country’s first red alert for extreme heat last week ahead of the sizzling weather. It includes cities such as London, Cambridge, Leicester, Nottingham and Manchester.

"In many places in the UK, it's hotter indoors than it is outside, because people here don’t have air conditioners," Chilcote said. "In fact, just 1% of buildings in the United Kingdom have (air conditioning) as opposed to 87% in the United States. So it's not just the extreme heat, it's the fact that this country and its infrastructure wasn't built for temperatures like this."

And there has been no relief at night. In addition to now setting their hottest daytime temperature, England and the UK have set their record for all-time warmest low temperature Tuesday morning -- 25.8 degrees Celsius (78 degrees F).

Other national records to fall: Scotland reached its hottest temperature on record at 34.8 degrees C at Charterhall; Wales broke its national temperature record as Gogerddan hit 35.3 C, and Ireland saw its second-hottest temperature on record reaching 33 degrees C.