Extreme wildfire warnings in place in Scotland after 'challenging' weekend blazes

The risk places extra strain on emergency services.

An ‘extreme risk’ of wildfire in Scotland remains in place, the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service has warned after a series of major fires in the Highlands at the weekend.

One fire which broke out near Strathpeffer in Easter Ross on Friday April 17 was probably caused by a cigarette butt, the SFRS said.

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More than 20 firefighters, six fire engines and a helicopter were sent to the blaze, which was eventually extinguished on Saturday.

There were no casualties.

In a separate incident fightfighters also battled a fire on Fyrish Hill.

The SFRS has warned that areas of countryside are at risk from wildfire despite fewer people out walking due to lockdown measures.

The increased risk is due to recent warm weather, as well as there being an increased amount of vegetation on the ground at the beginning of spring.

The SFRS has released a map of the most vulnerable areas. Picture: SFRS

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Area Commander Farquharson last week urged the public to be cautious of fires and to help minimise the risk by being vigilant and not discarding hot cigarette butts.

He reminded people how two of the UK’s largest wildfires in living memory occurred last year, at Thurso in the Highlands and Aberlour in Moray, and warned that a repeat incidents such as these would take a huge toll on already stretched emergency services.

He said: “You only have to look back to last year, when these fires took hold at Moray and Thurso. It took over a week on each occasion to bring both fires under control – which had a phenomenal knock-on impact on our entire structure right across Scotland.

The wildfire at Tarvie. Picture: Balintore Fire Station

“There is very little moisture on the ground just now and an abundance of dead material, and 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.

“This ignition, of course, can come in a variety of ways – but we can all play our part to reduce this risk. 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 a hot exhaust or a discarded cigarette can ignite long, dry grass, and this can quickly escalate to extreme wildfires.”

The wildfire at Tarvie. Picture: Balintore Fire Station

AC Farquharson continued: “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.

The wildfire at Tarvie. Picture: Balintore Fire Station