Fire fears fuelled by the recent drought

Fire fears fuelled by the recent drought

09 July 2010

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United Kingdom — Fire chiefs say they are concerned at the soaring number of grassland and forest fires, many of them started deliberately, as Scotland experiences its driest spell for nearly 70 years.

Figures released yesterday show that Strathclyde Fire and Rescue alone dealt with more than 6500 grassland, woodland and moorland fires in the three months to the end of June – 78% more than in the same period last year.

Fire officers claim many of the blazes are started by children and young people.

Concerned that the surge in fire-raising is adding to the risk already posed by tinder-dry conditions, fire officers are urging the public to contact the police if they become aware of any deliberate incidents.

A Strathclyde Fire and Rescue source said: “Most of these fires are started deliberately – mainly by young people. We would urge parents to point out to their children that fires pose a real danger to themselves and others and to property.”

The warning came as firefighters yesterday fought a major woodland fire fanned by high winds that stretched for more than a mile near Inverness.

Residents living close to the scene in Tomfat Woods, five miles south of the Highland capital, were urged to keep their windows and doors shut as drifting smoke spread.

Kenny McDonald, a group manager with Highlands and Islands Rescue Service, warned the public to take extra care, saying the dry weather coupled with windy conditions was creating greater risks of fast-moving fires.

“Along with the dry conditions we also have high winds at the moment so any fire that’s occurring is potentially going to be well developed when we arrive,” he said.

“Given the size of our geography, by the time we arrive at some of these locations, which can be remote, we are faced with a well-developed fire.

“People do want to go out and enjoy themselves, but people need to take care and be responsible.”

He said the Highlands and Islands has also had particular problems where the peat ground has helped keep fires alive just when people think they have extinguished them.

Elsewhere, firefighters were tackling a brush fire on the Charterhall estate in Duns, Berwickshire.

Lothian and Borders Fire and Rescue Service sent six engines to the area at 4.56pm on Wednesday and an area of about one square kilometre had been affected by the blaze.

Two engines were still on site, a spokeswoman for the fire service said yesterday.

Householders have also been urged to help wildlife affected by the drought as river levels fall and wet areas dry up.

The impacts of the hot, dry weather across the country include reduced breeding and feeding wetland spots for wading birds such as lapwings and curlews and lower oxygen levels in rivers killing fish and other wildlife.

Low river levels can prevent fish migrating downstream, killing them as remaining shallow pools dry up, while invertebrates such as crayfish may also become stranded in shrinking patches of water.

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