The risk of starting a wildfire is high after the prolonged hot spell

The risk of starting a wildfire is high after the prolonged hot spell

Outdoor enthusiasts are being warned the countryside is at high risk of wildfires after an exceptionally dry and hot spell.

Scottish Natural Heritage said it has already had to deal with a fire near the Creag Meagaidh national nature reserve which caused extensive damage.

And the Peak District National Park Authority has introduced extra patrols by its rangers as the fire risk rises.

SNH said people should 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, it said.

The wildfire last weekend between Laggan and Dalwhinnie caused damage to the natural environment.

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 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.”

The Peak District authority said lack of rain in recent weeks has dried out the moors making them especially vulnerable to fires which harm wildlife, destroy rare plants and cause erosion, taking years to regenerate.

People are asked never to light barbecues or campfires when they visit the moors. They should also never drop cigarette ends, even if they think they are out, or leave glass.

Andy Farmer, the Peak District National Park Authority’s head of field services, said: “Moorland fires can cause considerable environmental damage to fragile moorland ecosystems.

“Wildlife or farm animals can be caught in the flames with horrific results.

“These are not empty places, they’re areas of international importance for their wildlife and plants, and they absorb and store carbon which helps tackle global warming.

“Moorland fires undo many years of hard work in managing these rare environments.

“Most fires are caused by human carelessness, but some fires are suspected to be deliberate. If people see anyone acting suspiciously on the moors we ask them to report it to the police.”

The Peak District Fires Operations Group, which involves six fire and rescue services and major landowners along with the national park authority, is on standby to tackle any blaze in a remote area.

The authority also cautioned against swimming in the area’s reservoirs. Mr Farmer said: “People are looking to cool off in the heat but we urge them not to swim in reservoirs or other open waters, no matter how tempting they look.

“The sudden coldness of deep water, steep bank-sides, strong undercurrents and hidden drops mean that even the strongest swimmer can quickly get into serious trouble.”

Daniel Clemo, 24, of Caerphilly, died on Sunday after getting into difficulties in the Cantref Reservoir in the Brecon Beacons.

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