Islanders urged to be help combat wildfires

A wildfire in Lews Castle Grounds in 2012
A wildfire in Lews Castle Grounds in 2012

Scottish Fire and Rescue Service’s (SFRS) Local Senior Officer (LSO) for Western Isles, Shetland and Orkney is urging communities to Join Scotland’s Fight Against Fire and help Scottish Fire and Rescue Service reduce wildfire incidents on the islands.

Last year firefighters were called to deal with hundreds of wildfire/grassfire incidents across Scotland, and the demand on SFRS resources was significant. It is hoped that an awareness raising campaign will help reduce that demand.

SFRS say we are now entering that time of year when the risk of wildfire is at its highest and SFRS is keen to work with land managers, tourists and communities to help cut the number fires in a bid to protect the countryside and its residents.

Local Senior Officer for Western Isles, Shetland and Orkney, Billy Wilson, said: “Scottish Fire and Rescue Service is urging people to Join Scotland’s Fight Against Fire and we are asking communities, tourists and visitors to be aware of the heightened risk of wildfire at this time of year.

“We want people to act responsibly in a countryside environment, such as properly disposing of smoking materials to prevent these fires happening in the first place. We had a number of large wildfires last year which affected areas of the Western Isles, Orkney and Shetland.”

LSO Wilson added: “We are also speaking to land managers and asking that they do not burn out with the permitted season and ensure suitable ‘fire plans’ are in place during land management operations.

“When wildfires occur they impact greatly on rural areas and can cause substantial environmental and economic damage. Wildfires also pose a threat to communities and by raising awareness we are aiming to reduce the risk.”

There are a number of things land managers can do to help prevent wildfires, including strict adherence to the Muirburn Code, which applies to the controlled burning of heather within the permitted season.

The fire service has historically worked with land managers to provide advice around their fire plans in an attempt to reduce the number of wildfires and that work will continue.

LSO Wilson added: “The assistance of local land owners and managers, as well as members of the public, was very much appreciated last year. In particular I would like to thank local employers who released our retained and community response crew members to deal with these incidents. Their continued support is key to maintaining the safety of our local communities.”

Many wildland fires are started deliberately or are due to careless, reckless or irresponsible behaviour. If you see someone acting suspiciously, recklessly or irresponsibly in the countryside contact Police Scotland on 101 or pass information anonymously to Scotland Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

Scottish Wildfire Project Manager, Garry Burnett, said: “I am very much focused on delivering a preventative agenda within the wildfire environment. The reduction in wildfire incidents will not only benefit public safety but will reduce significant demand on our firefighting personnel.

“As the first Scottish Wildfire Project Manager, I am determined to reduce this type of incident utilising strong external and internal partnerrelationships and relying on those collaborations to reduce risk.”

Further information is available on the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service website

The website also has a link to the Muirburn Code and there is more advice in the Scottish Outdoor Access Code.