Countryside fire warning as heatwave goes on

Scottish Natural Heritage is urging people visiting the countryside this weekend to be careful of the high risk of fire.

The lengthy warm and dry spell is set to continue for the next few days, with the Met Office forecasting a weekend temperature high for Rothesay of 24 degrees Celsius.

SNH is advising people to be extremely careful with fires, cigarette disposal, and throw-away barbecues.

Continued hot dry weather has created conditions which pose a real threat of uncontrolled fire spreading across agricultural land and wildlife habitats.

A wildfire has already caused extensive damage last weekend between Laggan and Dalwhinnie, near Creag Meagaidh National Nature Reserve (NNR).

Rory Richardson, Creag Meagaidh NNR manager, said:“We have recently been involved in fighting wildfires near Creag Meagaidh National Nature Reserve which caused a significant amount of damage.

“Wild fires can have a serious effect on our plants and animals and more specialised habitats, and we would ask people to be mindful of that when they are out and about enjoying the fine weather.”

Catriona Reid, Muir of Dinnet NNR manager, said: “In this weather, with the high fire risk, we’d advise not lighting fires at all.

“People should be extra careful when disposing of cigarettes – it’s so dry right now that even a cigarette butt could easily start a wildfire.

“While we want people to make the most of the outdoors in this warm weather, there are a few things people should keep in mind to keep themselves, wildlife and the important resources in our rural economy safe.

“One of the biggest risks is disposable barbecues. These must go in the bin when you’re done with them; you may think the barbecue’s no longer a risk, but the lingering heat could cause vegetation to smoulder and then catch fire.

“A bad wildfire could easily destroy an entire nature reserve, which are important places for Scotland’s wildlife. Wildfires damage habitats and kill wildlife, especially young animals.

“They also cost a lot of money to bring under control.”

SNH’s advice on wildlife safety includes:

* Whenever possible, use a stove rather than light an open fire. If you do light one, keep it small and under control, and remove all traces before leaving. But avoid lighting fires at all during prolonged dry periods, like right now, or in forests, woods, farmland, peaty ground or near to buildings as fires that get out of control can cause major damage.

* When using a disposable barbeque, put it on a heat-proof surface, such as sand or stones before you light it. Make sure the barbeque is cold before you take it away with the rest of your rubbish.

* Dispose of cigarette butts in bins.