FIRE services may need to apply for emergency government funding to help cover the cost of a significant increase in the number of wild and grass fires in 2018.

Prolonged spells of “exceptionally dry and hot weather” turned much of the country into a tinderbox between May and July, leading firefighters in some parts of northern England to attend around 1,750 wildfires in the period, nearly three times more than on any other recent year.

Ninety-five per cent of the wild or grass fires were attended by fewer than five “appliances”, but a huge fire at Winter Hill, on the Blackburn with Darwen border, threatened to encroach on residential areas over the summer.

Firefighters from 20 different services spent nearly three weeks battling the blaze, which covered 18 square kilometres (6.9 squares miles).

“The prolonged spell of hot weather would have had an impact on the flammability of these areas,” said Lancashire Fire and Rescue spokesman John Taylor, although the service has yet to analyse the data or conduct a full debrief into how it managed the outbreaks.

Figures from Lancashire and South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service, obtained by The Press Association through a freedom of information request, are the first clear insight into the scale of the wildfires in a summer dominated by headlines of fires engulfing rural areas across the country.

In East Lancashire from May to July, crews attended 65 grass fires in Blackburn with Darwen, 65 in Burnley, 39 in Hyndburn, 35 in Chorley, 31 in Rossendale, 26 in Pendle and 14 in the Ribble Valley.

The “exceptional” cost of the fires in Lancashire had yet to be assessed, said Mr Taylor, but may involve asking the Government for emergency financial assistance under the Bellwin scheme, which also supported emergency services after the Grenfell Tower fire last year.

The number of deliberate fires in Lancashire - classed as those started with intent to cause damage and disruption - decreased on previous years to almost half, while the amount of fires with an unknown cause increased.

“Carelessness probably accounts for the majority,” said Mr Taylor.

He continued: “It would seem that there’s a lot more to be done in terms of public education. If someone is burning rubbish or garden waste in the garden and doesn’t take account of the conditions, a spark can set fire to grass, trees, a neighbour’s fence. So it seems there is more to be done.”

A full debrief into the costs around the Winter Hill fire and the wider issue of wild and grass fires has yet to be conducted, Mr Taylor said.

“Moorland fire is not on a par with something like Grenfell but it’s important nonetheless, and it isn’t something we want to brush aside as being a lesser priority,” he said.