Wild campers should use a stove rather than starting fires, national park bosses said. Photo: Lorne Gill/SNH

Wild campers should use a stove rather than starting fires, national park bosses said. Photo: Lorne Gill/SNH

Outdoor enthusiasts heading for the British countryside over the Easter holiday are being urged to be on their guard against starting wildfires.

Experts in Scotland said most of the nation will have a high or extreme fire risk by Saturday.

And national park bosses in the North York Moors have also issued a fire alert.

Scotland’s two national parks joined Scottish Natural Heritage, the government advisory body on the outdoors, to warn of the danger of starting fires.

Graham Sullivan, SNH uplands adviser, said: “The forecast looks promising for a warm, dry Easter weekend which is great news for encouraging more people to get out and about in our stunning parks and nature reserves.

“We want people to enjoy their visits but it’s important to bear in mind that fires can spread quickly in these conditions and do lasting damage to nature and wildlife.

“When there is a high fire risk, the Scottish Outdoor Access Code advises people not to light open fires and to use a camping stove instead. We would urge people to be particularly cautious when disposing of cigarettes. Even a cigarette butt or the smallest of embers left from a campfire can easily start a wildfire.

“One of the biggest risks is disposable barbecues. These should be taken away and disposed of safely. You may think the barbecue is no longer a risk, but the lingering heat could cause vegetation to smoulder and catch fire.

“A few simple tips can make all the difference in making sure as many people as possible can enjoy our countryside safely.”

Simon Jones, director of conservation and visitor operations at Loch Lomond & the Trossachs National Park, said: “Sadly, over the years we’ve seen fires causing damage to some of the national park’s iconic landscapes such as Conic Hill and as recently as last weekend on the island of Inchcailloch, part of the Loch Lomond national nature reserve.

“It’s particularly at this time of year when the fire risk can be really high because dead vegetation and wood from last year is still lying on the ground. Warm, dry weather can then turn it into tinder which very easily catches fire.

“While campfires and barbecues can seem like a fun and innocent way to enjoy the outdoors, fires can get out of control and spread very quickly, causing devastating damage.

“Please help prevent wildfires this Easter. If you are in grassy or wooded areas of the national park we strongly advise against having campfires and barbecues.”

David Clyne, Cairngorms National Park Authority recreation and access manager, said: “Over the last week we have witnessed the devastating impact of wildfires across Scotland.

“If you’re visiting the Cairngorms national park over the Easter holidays, please don’t light a fire in woodlands or on peaty soil.

“Follow the outdoor access code, tread lightly and enjoy yourself.”

Advice includes: never light an open fire during prolonged dry periods, as fires that get out of control can cause major damage; use a stove instead.

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

Dispose of cigarette butts safely.

South of the border, North York Moors National Park Authority has put up warning signs on moorland sites advising people how they can help to reduce the risk. The signs will remain in place until the fire risk has passed, it said.

Senior ranger Bernie McLinden said: “It may not feel as though we’ve been basking in hot sunshine in recent weeks, but a lack of rain has led to very dry ground vegetation that could easily be ignited.

“If anything, the situation is more dangerous, as people might not be aware just how great the threat is, even in April.

“Fire can spread extremely quickly, as was seen in Guisborough Forest just last week, and this can cause significant damage to the landscape and its wildlife.

“People are asked to avoid lighting fires and barbecues and not to discard cigarettes, matches or glass bottles, including throwing cigarette ends out of car windows.

“The majority of moorland fires can be prevented so we would urge people to take extra care when visiting the national park while the fire risk signs are in place.”

National park bosses said the period for controlled heather burning on the North York Moors ended on 15 April, which means any fires spotted will be wildfires and should be reported quickly to the fire service by dialling 999.

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