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Smoke billows over Gatwick Airport runway as huge wildfire breaks out during heatwave

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The snap taken today shows smoke rising in the Crawley area not far from Gatwick Airport.

It comes as the UK is facing a blistering heatwave sparking warnings of an increased risk of wildfires.

The scorching weather and months of low rainfall have lef the ground parched and at risk of wildfires breaking out.

The Met Office’s fire severity index (FSI), an assessment of how severe a fire could become if one were to start, is very high for most of England and Wales, and will reach “exceptional” – the highest level – for a swathe of England stretching to the border with Wales by the weekend.

In London, fire chiefs are urging people not to barbecue in open spaces or balconies, to put out their cigarettes properly and dispose of rubbish correctly.

London Fire Brigade said its control room had sent firefighters to deal with 340 grass, rubbish and open land fires during the first week of August – an eightfold increase on the 42 during the same week last year.

It comes as an amber warning for extreme heat has been issued by the Met Office for much of England and Wales.

The mercury is set to soar to as high as 34C today and up to a peak of 36C over the weekend in the areas covered by the alert.

Meanwhile, in northern England and Scotland temperatures are expected to be in the high 20s or even low 30s in some spots.

There is also a heat health alert in place from the UK Health Security Agency, with experts advising people to look out for those who are older or with existing health conditions, as well as young children.

Drought could be declared for some parts of England tomorrow with the National Drought Group – made up of Government and agency officials, water companies and other groups such as the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) – set to meet.

There are expectations drought could be declared for some parts of England such as southern and eastern areas.

The Met Office said there could be a “thundery breakdown” to the hot weather on Monday, although it was so far uncertain which areas could see rain.

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