Muirburn a vital tool to limit wildfires

Managed muirburn is an essential management tool to limit wildfires.
Managed muirburn is an essential management tool to limit wildfires.

Scottish gamekeepers and estates believe controlled muirburn will become an essential management tool to limit future devastating wildfires in Scotland, as the UK climate warms.

While the public has enjoyed higher temperatures of late and predictions of a warm summer, dry weather increases the risk of wildfire with The Scottish Wildfire Forum issuing a warning for most of the country.

That warning came after firefighters and landowners worked to contain two fires in the north of Scotland last month which spread over seven square kilometres and left resources stretched.

Gamekeepers practice controlled rotational burning of strips of moorland, in set seasons, to rejuvenate heather as a protein source for red grouse and food for a range of moorland species.

This burning of the heather, informed by the Muirburn Code, removes old and dry surface vegetation, one of the principal elements causing accidental fire to intensify and spread.

Burning in strips or patches also creates vital fire breaks, preventing flames licking unchecked across vast areas and potentially destroying breeding habitats of conservation-listed birds.

Gamekeeper Ian Hepburn said: “Muirburn is a beneficial practice, for a variety of reasons.

“If the heather on the moors is not being managed by controlled burning and the creation of firebreaks, all it takes is a strong wind in the wrong direction and an accidental fire will just take off.

“It takes an awful lot to get it under control, when that happens, not to mention the strain on the resources of the fire service.

“There are some with agendas who are critical of muirburn but it will be increasingly important in controlling wildfires in future.”