United Kingdom — LANDOWNERS in Lochaber have been urged to be more responsible when carrying out muirburning.
It follows a protracted wildfire at the weekend which destroyed hundreds of acres of land on a remote part of the Ardnamurchan peninsula.
More than 60 firefighters were involved in tackling the blaze between Portuairk and Achosnich, near Sanna Bay in West Ardnamurchan, which at one stage threatened two holiday homes and led to householders being evacuated.
The alarm was raised at 3.20pm on Saturday and three Highlands and Islands Fire and Rescue Service crews from Kilchoan, Lochaline and Acharacle were sent to deal with the fire which was burning on a one-mile front.
The crews were relieved by colleagues from Mallaig and Kinlochleven on Saturday night and firefighters from Fort William and Strontian took over in the early hours of Sunday. A crew from Spean Bridge also attended and an engine was drafted in from Foyers.
The blaze was eventually out at 12.30pm on Sunday. Telephone cables were badly burned and Portuairk was left without communications.
Residents at nearby Kilchoan reported the fire had started close to the Old Schoolhouse at Achosnich and had reached the area of Lochan na Crannog. A HIFRS spokeswoman said two properties had to be evacuated as a precautionary measure and firefighters were on the scene for over 24 hours. She added that about 740 acres of heather and gorse bush were destroyed.
This week, HIFRS head of service, Billy Wilson, urged landowners to be fully aware of their responsibilities.
This includes notifying HIFRS of any planned burning and having adequate personnel and equipment on site to deal with any unplanned fire spread safely and controlled, said Mr Wilson.
Fires of this nature can rapidly spread to vast areas of moorland, forestry plantations and in some cases property, they are not only damaging to the natural environment, they cause a considerable drain on fire and rescue service resources as well as putting firefighters safety at risk.