A Fire Chief has spoken of the efforts of crews to protect communities during a recent spate of challenging wildfires – as another risk warning is issued for the Easter weekend.
Firefighters worked to contain several large scale incidents across the Highlands over the course of last week - including a large wind driven wildfire that took hold and threatened several properties, causing them to be evacuated near the village of Durness in north-west Sutherland.
Further significant wildfires across the north of Scotland presented serious risk including an incident at Paul’s Hill Windfarm near Aberlour, Moray.
The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service mobilised a number of fire engines to the scene after the alarm was raised at 10.50pm on Saturday, April 13. It took crews two days to bring the fire under control due to it being fanned by high winds.
Meanwhile another significant fire across the other side of Scotland saw firefighters battle a forest fire at Loch Doon, Dalmellington in Ayrshire over a total of three days.
Operations Control mobilised three fire engines to the scene after the call first came in at 6.50pm on Saturday, April 13. The public was advised to stay away from the area.
Rab Middlemiss is the Local Senior Officer for the Highlands.
He said: “The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service has recently worked hard to protect communities from this spate of very challenging wildfires, with assistance from our various partners.
“And certainly, our crews here in Highland, worked through some of the most challenging conditions – covering difficult terrain and in high winds – to bring these fires under control and extinguish them, and ultimately protecting life, property and the environment.
“They are an absolute credit to their communities and I would like to take this opportunity to thank them for their commitment and their professionalism.
"I would also like to note the outstanding effort from firefighters within Operations Control who worked to effectively co-ordinate the appropriate resources and particularly where those incidents were protracted over the course of several days.
“I would also like to thank, as always, the wider Highland community for their outstanding and continued support.”
Latest statistics over the last several days have shown a significant increase in the number of wildfires being experienced across Scotland.
And the whole of the country will face a heightened wildfire threat again over the Easter weekend.
In conjunction with the Scottish Wildfire Forum, the SFRS has issued a public warning which will last right through until Saturday, April 20.
LSO Middlemiss said: “As the warm and dry weather continues, so too does the risk of wildfire.
“We have seen in the last week just how challenging these fires can become - many rural and remote communities are hugely impacted by these incidents, which can cause significant environmental and economic damage.
"Livestock, farmland, wildlife, protected woodland and sites of special scientific interest can all be devastated by these fires - as can the lives of people living and working in rural communities.
“We are appealing to people to take great care – it is crucial that people act safely and responsibly in rural environments and follow the countryside code.
"Just one heat source like a campfire ember can cause it to ignite and if the wind changes direction even the smallest fire can spread uncontrollably and devastate entire hillsides."
SFRS Area Manager Bruce Farquharson is the chair of the Scottish Wildfire Forum.
He said: "At the start of spring there is often a lot of dead vegetation leftover from last year - this fuel can dry out quickly with higher temperatures and lower humidity levels.
"A great many people will be enjoying the outdoors in the good weather this weekend, we urge everyone to make sure that they don’t increase the chance of wildfire – be aware of the risks and follow the Scottish Outdoor Access Code.
"Wildfires are a major threat to our wildlife and wild places. We encourage people visiting the outdoors to be extra careful, and check the advice in the Scottish Outdoor Access Code before starting a fire.
"The public can help prevent wildfires by making sure they dispose of litter and smoking materials carefully while in rural areas."
AM Farquharson added: "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 follow the countryside code.”
The SFRS works closely with land managers, communities and other safety partners to prevent these incidents occurring.