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Forestry Commission Scotland staff are urging forest visitors to use some common sense when out and about after firemen had to be called out to deal with a ‘rogue’ campfire.
The fire – in mature woodland on Ord Hill earlier this week – ended up damaging an area about 10m by 50m but could have ended up doing considerably more damage.
Thanks to the quick thinking of a lady out walking her dog, the Fire Brigade were contacted quickly and the fire dealt with before it could escalate.
Alastair Smyth, for the Commission’s team based in Smithton, said;
“A camp fire in this sort of setting is usually a bad idea - especially so after a period of dry weather. If this one had not been caught in time it could easily have destroyed a lot of valuable woodland and could also have reached nearby homes.
“It’s a typical case of someone out to enjoy a wilderness experience, building a fire but then not extinguished it properly when they left the site. Embers fanned by strong winds allowed the fire to burn above ground - and let it continue smoldering under ground.
“Two of our staff helped on site but this lack of attention from a wilderness camper tied up a lot of Fire and Rescue Service resource for two hours - including six fire men, a fire engine and a specially adapted Argo to get to hill fires.”
The firemen attending used back packs to spray the area, dug the fire out of the ground and used special equipment to douse potential hotspots on the ground. After the immediate threat had been resolved, Commission staff stayed on site for a further hour to continue to dig out the burning embers.
The fire was in one of four Woods In and Around Towns (WIAT) around Inverness.
SFRS Wildfire Project Manager Garry Burnett said: "Dry weather increases the risk of outdoor fires. Protecting the countryside from wildfires demands that everyone recognises the risk and takes responsibility for preventing fires breaking out in the countryside and areas of grassland.
He continued: "We want to make as many people aware of this to ensure they don’t cause a fire that could have devastating results."
Many people enjoy the countryside and SFRS wants to ensure everyone is aware of their responsibilities.
Garry added: "We would urge communities to make sure they act responsibly in a countryside environment.
"Simple measures such as making sure smoking materials are always properly disposed of and only having BBQs or campfires in safe places can help protect the countryside from potentially devastating wildfires."
People visiting the countryside can find more information on how to act responsibly and help prevent wildfires by checking out the Scottish Outdoor Access Code.
Notes to news editors
1. Forestry Commission Scotland is part of the Scottish Government's Environment & Forestry Directorate. www.forestry.gov.uk/scotland.
2. For news, events and recreation information log on to: www.facebook.com/enjoyscotlandsforests or https://twitter.com/FCScotlandNews
3. Tha FCS pàirt de Bhuidheann-Stiùiridh Àrainneachd is Coilltearachd aig Riaghaltas na h-Alba; a' riaghladh nan 660,000 heactairean ann an Oighreachd na Coille Nàiseanta, a' dìon, a' cumail smachd air, agus a' leudachadh choilltean gus buannachdan a choileanadh dha coimhearsnachdan, dhan eaconamaidh agus ag obair an aghaidh atharrachadh sa ghnàth-shìde. www.forestry.gov.uk/scotland
4. Media enquiries to Steve Williams, Forestry Commission Scotland press office 0300 067 6508.