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Bid to form local groups as defence against wildfires

By SPP Reporter

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Wildfire spreading at Glen Torridon last year. Photo: Steve Carter
Wildfire spreading at Glen Torridon last year. Photo: Steve Carter

Scottish Land and Estates is leading a new defence against wildfires following massive damage and destruction to so much of Scotland’s countryside inflicted by fires last spring.

The organisation, which represents some 2,500 landowners across the country, has published a wildfire information guide.

The guide has been prepared in response to the results of a survey of deer management groups which showed 96 per cent of respondents were willing to participate in creating a chain of wildfire defence, by working with the fire and rescue services and their rural neighbours.

The guide also responds to calls being made for contingency plans to be put in place by rural groups in all high risk areas, in an effort to tackle the threat of wildfires ahead of the dry season.

Drew McFarlane Slack, Highland regional manager with Scottish Land and Estates, says: “The risk of wildfire is growing while the resources available to fight it are decreasing. Land use trends are indirectly increasing the quantity of vegetation while climate change predictions indicate an increase in the occurrence of dry and warm spells.

“It is therefore essential that we study how well we are organised and look at how prepared and willing we are to work together to support each other in tackling the wildfire threat.

“The results of our survey have shown that the willingness to collaborate amongst the wildfire network is high. There is recognition that we must collectively come together to see how we can improve current procedures for combating wildfires.

“Many of our members have made a huge effort over the last few years, investing significant time and resources and working together with neighbouring landowners and landowning bodies to fight wildfires. Many have established local fire groups in their regions which assist the efforts of the fire and rescue services.

“We are keen for more members to collaborate in the development of further such groups. We are also involved with the Scottish Wildfire Forum where a strategic approach to the wildfire problem is being developed between the fire and rescue services and a wide partnership of countryside interests.”

It is estimated that private landowners and estates across the Highlands spent in excess of £1 million supplying vital resources in the fight against the 2011 wildfires.

The resources landowners provided and paid for included staff experienced in burning techniques and specialist equipment including fire fogging units and helicopters to deal with wildfires on all affected habitats.

In spring 2011, wildfires broke out across the north west of Scotland with significant fires in Inverkirkaig, Lochailort and in Newton of Ardtoe in Salen. In a period of six days between 30 April and 5 May, the Highlands & Islands fire and rescue services dealt with 76 wildfires where over 10,000 hectares of land were burned, including conservation sites, forests, moorland and farmland.

Of those, a number of the more remote fires were often left to burn and other fires burned assets because of over-stretched resources.

* More on this story in tomorrow's Northern Times.

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