1. South Downs – Fire Risk Rating of 4.5 /5
With a fire risk rating of 4.5 /5, South Downs is the National Park at risk of the most severe blazes if a wildfire should occur. Located in South East England, this National Park is made up of vast countryside and is famed for its river valleys and grassland. When taking into account the low rainfall and winds in the area during peak summertime, South Downs is vulnerable to extreme fires – this makes it all the more important to be mindful of our ecosystems and protect them at all costs.
2. Northumberland, North York Moors, Peak District, The Broads, Yorkshire Dales, New Forest – Fire Risk rating of 4 /5
The second position in this ranking is shared between six different National Parks that all have a fire severity score of 4 /5. With the exception of The Broads and New Forest National Parks, all of the entries in this position are located in the North of England which indicates that the weather conditions which increase fire severity, namely hot and dry weather, are similar in these areas.
Of the entries in this list, Northumberland is the least visited of all the National Parks which decreases the likelihood of a wildfire occurring due to human activity. Having said this, in the unfortunate instance that a wildfire should occur, some areas of the Northumberland National Park are at an exceptional fire severity risk.
Despite being one of the most recently designated National Parks, New Forest is full of history which needs to be preserved. As well as this, it is the only entry in this second spot with the same level of fire severity risk across its land, meaning that the entire National Park has a very high chance of being severe if a wildfire were to break out.
With the effects of global warming becoming more apparent in recent years, we were interested to find out how much the surrounding ecosystems have been impacted. Looking at data between 2011-2022, the list below shows the years that have been affected the most by wildfires.
1. 2019 – 28,754 hectares of area burned due to wildfires
In terms of the total area burned by wildfires, 2019 saw the most destruction in the UK – totalling 28,754 hectares. The combination of drought and high temperatures throughout the year provided the perfect condition for wildfires. Unusually, a hot spell of weather in February 2019 resulted in many wildfires, and unfortunately, this set a precedent for the rest of the year.
2. 2022 – 20,362 hectares of area burned due to wildfires
Despite being the hottest year on record, 2022 saw less area burned by wildfires than in 2019. Even though 2022 does not feature at the top of this ranking, there is still a lot of progress to be made in terms of protecting the countryside. As well as tackling climate change, we are being urged to be mindful of our surroundings and any potential fire hazards.
3. 2018 – 17,689 hectares of area burned due to wildfires
With a total of 17,689 hectares of area burned in 2018, this year saw the third-highest destruction of land from wildfires. The majority of wildfires in the year occurred during the summer months of June and July. As a result of extreme drought across the north of England, there was even damage to buildings in the area, with some homes having to be evacuated.
We used Statista to find the number of hectares burned by wildfires in the United Kingdom for every year between 2011-2022.
We used Statista to find the number of hectares that have been burned by forest and wildfires as of 2022 for 32 European countries (excluding Ukraine).
Using Met Office data and filtering by the hottest day of 2022 (19/07/2022), we found the fire risk rating (level 1= low fire severity, level 5 = exceptional fire severity) for each National Park across England and Wales. To determine the rating, we looked at the range of fire severity index levels in each National Park and took an average score.