Firefighters are fighting several blazes all across the Western Isles

No sooner had Scottish Fire and Rescue issued a warning for people to be careful as a result of the tinder dry conditions, than they found themselves being called out to deal with a number of wildfires and muirburns.

Friday, 12th February 2021, 8:18 am
The fire service are currently dealing with a number of fires in the Western Isles. Image by Tom McCluskie.

Social media has been awash with images of various locations that have been affected and required the assistance of the fire service.

An ‘extreme’ risk of wildfire is currently in place across coastal and island areas of western Scotland, the country’s fire and rescue service has warned.

Despite freezing temperatures and snow in large parts of eastern and central parts of the country this week, Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) Area Commander Bruce Farquharson has stressed that parts of Scotland’s countryside still remain “vulnerable” to fire.

Fire service personnel are dealing with several incidents across the islands.

People who live within or who may enter any rural environments have been warned to exercise caution.

The ‘extreme’ warning – released in conjunction with the Scottish Wildfire Forum (SWF) – remains in place until today, (Friday 12 February). This covers the majority of the west coast and island areas, from the Highlands to Dumfries and Galloway, via Argyll and Bute and Ayrshire and the Western Isles.

Area Commander Farquharson, who is also chair of the SWF, said: “There may have been a lot of snow in the eastern and central areas of Scotland, but that is not the case in the western coastal areas and fuel conditions are very different.

“At this time of year, we typically have a large volume of dead, bone-dry vegetation left over – which essentially acts as a fuel for fire.

Fire service personnel are dealing with several incidents across the islands.

“As a result, there are currently vast areas of countryside all over the country that are tinder dry and vulnerable, this provides all of the ingredients for fire to take hold and spread.

“We are asking the public to exercise extreme caution and think twice before using anything involving a naked flame.”

Area Commander Farquharson highlighted parallels to a period in late February 2018, when SFRS crews tackled a series of wildfires on Skye and Barra just days after the ‘Beast From The East’ struck central Scotland.

“This weather patterns is very similar to what we witnessed two years ago during the ‘Beast from the East’, which saw a number of challenging wildfire incidents on Barra and Skye,” he said.

Fire service personnel are dealing with several incidents across the islands.

“These incidents came just days after the ‘Beast From The East’ snow storms, which left hundreds of motorists stranded overnight in freezing conditions on the M80 motorway.”

Wildfires have the potential to burn for days and devastate vast areas of land and wildlife; and threaten the welfare of nearby communities.

A spate of wildfires could also place unnecessary pressure on the emergency services as they already work to support partners and protect the public amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Area Commander 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.

“We will always do our utmost to protect our communities, and to save life and property from harm at all times – but we also need the public to help us.

“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 Scottish Outdoor Access Code.”