SFRS reminder to help protect our countryside from wildfires

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Deputy Assistant Chief Officer (DACO) Andy Coueslant recently took over the chairmanship of the Scottish Wildfire Forum.

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The new chairman of the Scottish Wildfire Forum (SWF) is sending out a timely reminder that it’s everyone’s responsibility to protect Scotland’s countryside and environment from potentially devastating wildfires.

Deputy Assistant Chief Officer (DACO) Andy Coueslant recently took over the chairmanship of the SWF from Assistant Chief Officer Robert Scott and he is keen to build on the previous chair’s work to ensure a continued reduction in wildfire incidents.

We are now entering that time of year when the risk of wildfire is at its highest and Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) will continue to work with landowners, tourists and communities to help reduce the number fires in a bid to protect the countryside and its residents.

The demand on SFRS resources during wildfire season is significant and it is hoped that raised awareness will help reduce that demand.

There are a number of proactive steps land managers can take to help prevent wildfires, including strict adherence to the Muirburn Code, which applies to the controlled burning of heather within the permitted season.

The fire service has historically worked with land managers to provide advice around their fire plans in an attempt to reduce the number of wildfires and that work will continue.

Many wild land fires are started deliberately or are due to careless, reckless or irresponsible behaviour. If you see someone acting suspiciously, recklessly or irresponsibly in the countryside contact Police Scotland on 101 or pass information anonymously to Scotland Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

Chair of the Scottish Wildfire Forum, DACO Andy Coueslant, said: “As we are now entering what has historically been seen as wildfire season I am keen to stress that everyone has a responsibility to protect our countryside, people and property for the devastating effects of wildfire.

“We want to continue to raise awareness and reduce the number of wildfire incidents across the country.

“Information and advice is readily available about preventing countryside fires, such as the Muirburn Code and Scottish Outdoor Access Code.

“We want people to Join Scotland’s Fight Against Fire and we are urging communities, tourists and visitors to be aware of the heightened risk of wildfire at this time of year.”

SFRS want people to act responsibly in a countryside environment, such as properly disposing of smoking materials to prevent these fires happening in the first place.

Land managers are asked not to burn out with the permitted season and ensure suitable ‘fire plans’ are in place during land management operations.

DACO Coueslant added: “When wildfires occur they have a serious impact on rural and remote areas of Scotland and have the potential to cause significant environmental and economic damage.

“It is important we all do what we can to protect farmland and wildlife, protected woodland and Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), buildings, property and the lives of those who live in rural communities.”

For further advice and information about wildfires and what we can all do to prevent them visit our website /your-safety/wildfires.aspx

The website has a link to the Muirburn Code and there is more advice in the Scottish Outdoor Access Code. There is also a page dedicated to wildfires, leaflets and what we can all do to reduce the chances of a wildfire happening.

In 2014 there was a 61% reduction in wildfires across Scotland. Alongside the proactive work of SFRS personnel across Scotland, a combination of the specialised focus of the SWF and SFRS introduction of a dedicated Wildfire Project Manager undoubtedly contributed to the reduction. The reduction in the number of wildfire incidentssaved £278,000 in retained/operational costs.