Campaign aims to tackle wildfires as dry weather ups risk

As dry conditions continue to affect much of the UK, the Countryside Alliance has launched a campaign to raise awareness of the risks and damage caused by wildfires in rural areas.

The move follows a spate of wildfires in Scotland, including a blaze at Lochinver on the north-west coast, which burned an area of about 12 sq km, and one in the Ochil Hills in central Scotland, near Stirling.

The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service also dealt with a large grassland fire at Harburn, West Calder – south-west of Edinburgh – over the weekend, where six vehicles were deployed.

See also: Drought could slash crop yields by up to 50%

And in Hampshire, about 30 firefighters tackled a heathland and gorse fire that scorched 20ha of open ground at Rock Hills, Burley.

This time of year is especially high risk, according to fires services, with warmer weather drying out vegetation – especially dead winter foliage – which offers an ample fuel source.

Combined with a wind change, even a small fire can quickly spread out of control and devastate large swathes of upland farmland.

“Wildfires can have potentially devastating impacts on farming and local communities, wildlife and protected habitats,” said CA campaigns manager Jack Knott.

“It is essential that all steps are taken to reduce the risk.

“This includes increasing education for those that enjoy our beautiful countryside.” 

Countryside Alliance advice to counter wildfires

To reduce the risk of wildfires

  • Do not discard cigarettes
  • Make sure fires and barbecues only take place in authorised places and are properly extinguished
  • Do not leave fires or barbecues unattended
  • Dispose of litter appropriately
  • Keep fires at a manageable level

If you do encounter a wildfire

  • Do not try and tackle the fire yourself
  • Move to a safe location and call the emergency services on 999
  • Give an accurate location of the wildfire