West coast ‘extreme’ risk of fire warning

A warning of fire risk has been issued for the west coast of Scotland

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Snow may have blanketed central and eastern parts of Scotland, but unusually dry conditions in recent days over the west have prompted a warning over an ‘extreme’ risk of wildfire.

More familiar damper conditions are expected to arrive across Argyll from Saturday February 13, but for the moment Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) has in force an alert that the west coast remains ‘vulnerable’ to fire.

The ‘extreme’ warning – released in conjunction with the Scottish Wildfire Forum (SWF) – 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.

SFRS Area Commander Bruce 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.

‘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.’

To underline the point, shortly after the alert was issued firefighters were called to tackle a number of large fires on Harris, Benbecula and other areas.

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

A spate of such fires could also place added pressure on the emergency services as they support the national coronavirus pandemic effort.

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.’