A former police officer has signed up to volunteer with Scotland’s fire service – armed with his remote control “tank”.
Cameron McCrae, 52, spent 27 years serving communities as a police officer and trained new recruits in high speed pursuit driving before retiring.
Now a Skye-based businessman, Cameron owns a one-and-a-half tonne unmanned “tank” which can chop down trees, climb 60 degree slopes – and stop a wildfire in its tracks.
And he has just signed up to the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service’s Community Asset Register.
This is effectively an army of volunteers who own boats, 4x4s and other assets – and who have the capability to mobilise in partnership with SFRS to protect communities.
And on his first call out, Cameron found himself in Golspie on Sunday, July 8 at the scene of the largest wildfire to have taken hold in Scotland this summer.
Cameron said: “This machine can go where firefighters can’t, following the direction of the senior officers - and it will help stop or redirect wildfires then and there.
“At Golspie, the scale of the fire was incredible and I used Robocut to create four meter wide, one kilometre long firebreaks in the gorse and heather to stop the fire spreading across the mountain.
“It’s extremely versatile and it can get up, down and over all sorts of terrain.”
He added: “It was brilliant to get involved on the ground - and really make a difference.”
The value of the CAR scheme also came to the fore during major snowstorms earlier this year when specialists with 4x4 vehicles were mobilised alongside firefighters by Operations Control to reach stranded motorists and households.
But Cameron’s £50,000 tracked vehicle, called Robocut, is a first.
Controlled from a small handheld unit, the diesel powered machine was designed to cut down thick vegetation and even trees in areas that were otherwise unreachable.
Purchased as part of his ground-clearing business, Cameron immediately saw the potential of Robocut in an emergency situation.
He added: “The firefighters were amazed when they saw what it could do.
“Obviously it can’t get too close to the heat and the flames but it could quickly do the work of several firefighters, and can be operated from a safe position.”
He added: “Even though I have retired I still wanted to do something for the community and stay involved - the Community Asset Register is a great way of doing that.”
A call has now been issued for others to follow in Cameron’s footsteps.
Potential applicants undergo a rigorous registration process to ensure they are appropriately qualified to operate their asset alongside an inspection of their equipment to ensure it is safe.
They can be called upon to enhance a full and appropriate SFRS response and are not obligated to attend.
The register is available to SFRS’ emergency service and local authority partners.
Assistant Chief Officer Lewis Ramsay is the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service’s Director of Response and Resilience.
He said: “The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service exists to save lives and will always respond to every emergency with the right resources, in the right place - at the right time.
“But we always look for new and innovative, dynamic but nonetheless appropriate partnerships wherever possible to absolutely ensure the safety of our communities.
“Cameron and Robocut embody that ethos and we continue to call on those who are knowledgeable in handling their specialist equipment to come forward and give something back to their community.”
Volunteers who wish to offer their support should register an interest with SFRS.CommunityAssetRegister@firescotland.gov.uk.