UnitedKingdom — The Scottish Executive, St Andrews House, Regent Road,Edinburgh EH1 3DG, Scotland
A wildfire danger rating system has been launchedonline today to help land managers and Scotlands fire & rescue servicesprotect the natural environment.
Known as the Fire Severity Index, a five-day forecastwill be displayed on a map of Scotland and updated daily on the FireBeaterswebsite (www.firebeaters.org.uk).
Wildfires can have a devastating impact oninternationally important moorland and blanket bog habitat, as well as forestsand grasslands. Where peat is ignited, biodiversity can take centuries torecover and significant quantities of greenhouse gases can be produced.
The new system uses live weather forecast informationfrom the Met Office, including air temperature, rainfall, relative humidity andwind speed, to predict levels of exceptional fire weather across the country,graded from one, very low to five, exceptional.
FireBeaters is a joint project between University ofEdinburgh and the Met Office, funded by the Scottish Executive and ScottishNatural Heritage, under the remit of the Scottish Wildfire Forum.
Jeff Ord, HM Chief Inspector of Fire Services,Scotland, said:
I have been a strong supporter of this innovativeand challenging project.
This is part of our response to become betterprepared for difficult and damaging fire seasons such as the one we witnessed in2003.
Climate change predictions indicate that we arelikely to face the conditions that occurred then more frequently in the future.
Andrew Coupar, Head of Uplands, Scottish NaturalHeritage, added:
Advance warning of potentially difficult periodsoffers us one of the best means of protecting important habitats and wildlifefrom damaging wildfires.
Michael Bruce of the Confederation of Forest Industries(ConFor), and chair of the research steering group, said:
This exciting initial output from the FireBeatersproject will help protect our forests and moors, as well as improving ourwildfire fighting capability.
Project leader Dr Colin Legg added:
We are pleased to launch the first part of theFireBeaters Project, which in collaboration with the Met Office, is achievingimprovements in our national fire management systems.
Further research is on-going to improve the system,especially to help land managers and fire services understand moorland firebehaviour.
2. The rating system launched today is an extension of the existing MetOffice Fire Severity Index operating in England and Wales. FireBeaters is completing further research to allow the system to providemore precise forecasts and information on fire behaviour and wildfire riskacross Scotland.
3. The Scottish Wildfire Forum was established in 2004 following the hot anddry summer of 2003, when large areas of semi-natural vegetation, forests andother rural areas suffered from wildfires, including some caused deliberately.More information about the forum is available at http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Topics/Justice/Fire/15130/wildfireforum
4. The rating system is part of a project that has received joint fundingfrom the Scottish Executive (£145,000) and SNH (£16,000).
5. The individuals quoted above may be contacted for information orinterview bids through the Scottish Executive communications team.