Dramatic images show wildfire damage amid new calls for public to follow warnings

Forestry and Land Scotland have released a series of dramatic images showing the extent of damage caused by wildfires after 10 of its own properties were among those hit over the past fortnight.

It also led to renewed calls for members of the public to do more to prevent sparking fires as emergency services find themselves stretched trying to control the devastation.

One incident in the north east of Scotland burned ground vegetation over an area equal to ten times the size of a football pitch and required the deployment of nine SFRS vehicles and over 60 fire fighters for approximately six hours.

Simon Hodgson, Chief Executive of Forestry and Land Scotland, said: “These avoidable incidents, which are often the result of irresponsible, thoughtless behaviour, are drawing emergency services into situations often for considerable periods of time.

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“On every occasion SFRS responders have done an outstanding job. I would also like to commend all of my FLS colleagues for their contributions to the coordinated effort to control those wildfires.

“We would strongly urge everyone to follow current government and NHS advice, stay local and only visit a forest that they can get to on foot, by cycling or by wheelchair.

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“And when you arrive please be extra vigilant and do not carry out any activity that might risk starting a wildfire.

“Helping to prevent wildfires also prevents undue demands being made on our blue light services – and could also save lives.”

The challenges have been made all the greater, as fire crews and forestry staff still have to deal with safety protocols around COVID-19 further complicating operations.

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Bruce Farquharson, Scottish Fire and Rescue Service Area Commander and chair of the Scottish Wildfire Forum, said: “Fires in areas of countryside and woodland have the potential to spread quickly, and traditionally this is a period when we see a high volume of large wildfires in Scotland.

“This is clearly an unprecedented time for the country, and a challenging period for the emergency services.

“Wildfires can draw huge resources, and while we continue to maintain a high resilience across Scotland, we would seek to avoid any unnecessary demand on our service.

“While social distancing rules should continue to see a reduction in the number of people in the countryside, the threat of wildfire undoubtedly remains.”

He added: “Human behaviour can significantly lower the chance of grass and woodland fires starting, so it is crucial that people act safely and responsibly in rural environments, and always follow the countryside code.”

When helicopter support is required for firefighting, FLS can call on Heli-lift Services to assist.

Working as part of a co-ordinated team effort, helicopter support can reach areas or sections of the fire line that the fire service would have difficulty getting to.

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Pilot, Andrew Hutchinson, said: “This is generally a pretty busy time of year for us when it comes to fires support and we’ve attended two fires for FLS this week.

“Working as part of a co-ordinated team effort, we can get to areas or sections of the fire line that the fire service would have difficulty getting to and so help bring fires under control as quickly and safely as possible.

“As with everyone else, we would much rather that these incidents did not happen and that all the resources put in to dealing with wildfires could be put to other uses.”

Image credits: Heli-Lift / SLF

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