Don’t risk starting a wildfire in the Scottish countryside

Scotland’s countryside is “vulnerable” to fire so people are being asked to treat it with respect if they’re enjoying it as part of their daily exercise routine.

By Julie Currie
Tuesday, 14th April 2020, 10:44 am
Taking hold...something as simple as a car exhaust or discarded cigarette can start a wildfire in our countryside. (Pic: Carbridge Community Fire Station)

The appeal was issued this week by Scottish Fire and Rescue Service Area Commander Bruce Farquharson.

He spoke out amid concerns that a spate of wildfires could place unnecessary pressure on the emergency services as they already work to support partners and protect the public amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Area Commander Farquharson, who is also chair of the Scottish Wildfire Forum, said: “This is clearly an unprecedented time for the country and a challenging period for the emergency services.

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Bruce Farquharson, Scottish Fire and Rescue Service Area Commander, said: "We can all play our part to reduce the risk."

“While social restrictions should continue to see a reduction in the number of people in the countryside, the threat of wildfire undoubtedly remains.

“At the start of spring there is often a lot of dead vegetation from last year which essentially acts as fuel for fires.

“We have also witnessed a spell of dry weather recently and traditionally this time of year is our peak for large, challenging wildfires.

“Put simply – our countryside is vulnerable and has all of the ingredients for fire to take hold.

“There is very little moisture on the ground and an abundance of dead material. This fuel has dried out quickly with milder temperatures and lower humidity levels.

“This creates a worrying melting pot of dry material mixed with oxygen in the air – all that’s missing is the ignition.”

As a result, AC Farquharson is appealing to the public to take precautions.

“We can all play our part to reduce this risk,” he said.

“Human behaviour can significantly lower the chance of a wildfire starting, so it is crucial that people act safely and responsibly in rural environments and always follow the countryside code.

“There may be less people in the countryside but even something such as a hot exhaust or a discarded cigarette can ignite long, dry grass and this can quickly escalate to extreme wildfires.”

During spring last year, Scottish Fire and Rescue Service crews worked tirelessly to tackle and contain more than 2000 fires involving grasslands, woodlands and crops – three times as many as the same period in 2018.

AC Farquharson added: “We would always stress the importance of being vigilant in areas of countryside but right now we are in a unique and testing period for all emergency services.

“Livestock, farmland, wildlife, protected woodland and sites of special scientific interest can be devastated by wildfires – as can the lives of people living and working in rural communities.

“We will always do our utmost to protect our communities and to save life and property from harm at all times – but we also need the public to help us.”