The warm dry conditions that have taken hold across the country may be great news for hillwalkers and climbers, but the public are now being warned about high fire risk in a number of National Parks. Last spring brought widespread serious damage to many upland areas; extra vigilance this year may help prevent a repeat performance.
Signs warning people to take extra care to prevent fires are going up this week on moorland sites in the Peak District.
Peak District National Park Authority (PDNPA) rangers, who mount extra patrols during times of heightened fire risk, are asking the public to be on the lookout for fires and to ring 999 immediately if they spot any.
The authority is asking people never to light barbecues or campfires when they visit the moors, and never to drop cigarette ends (even if they think they are out) or leave glass. To that we might add that hillwalkers should also think twice at the moment before burning used toilet paper.
Lack of rain in recent weeks has dried out the Pennine moors, making them especially vulnerable to fires which harm wildlife, destroy rare plants and cause erosion. Regeneration takes years.
Sean Prendergast, head of field services at the PDNPA, said:
'Moorland fires are especially tragic at this time of year when wildlife and farm animals are rearing young. Ground-nesting birds and lambs can be caught in the flames with horrific results. These are not empty places, they are 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.'
Rangers along with land managers for the big estates are erecting fire warning signs at car parks and key locations used by the public. The Peak District Fires Operations Group, which involves six fire and rescue services and major landowners along with the PDNPA, is on standby to tackle any blaze in a remote area.
This morning the Cairngorms National Park Authority also issued an alert about the danger, after the Met Office advised that the Fire Severity Index shows very high fire conditions across many parts of Scotland.
With the school holidays and Easter approaching, members of the public are being urged to be especially careful during this dry snap. Advice in the Cairngorms is similar to that issued in the Peak:
- Never light a fire during a prolonged dry period
- Use a stove rather than an open fire if cooking outdoors
- If using a disposable barbecue, place it on a solid fire resistant surface such as stones and take it home once it has cooled
During the last week a serious wildfire was put out by the South Grampian Wildfire Group, a partnership between Grampian Fire and Rescue Services and many of the Estates in the South Grampian area.
Michael Bruce from Glen Tanar Estate and Chairman of the Group said: 'The risk of wildfire is very high just now, the grasses and heather are very dry. Although this fire was small it had big flames and was extremely dangerous. It was a warning. So I would urge all visitors to the countryside to be both careful and vigilant.
Head of Operations at Grampian Fire and Rescue Service, David Rout, added:
'The recent fire at Forest o'Birse in the Grampian area serves as a timely reminder of the significant risks that wildfire presents to those fighting the fires, biodiversity and our economy. Grampian Fire and Rescue Service fully supports and contributes to the work of the Scottish Wildfire Forum. It serves as an excellent example of partnership working to prevent fires occurring, sharing best practice and providing awareness and advice to our own staff, estate owners and members of the public.'
Elsewhere, the BBC are reporting today that a large grassland fire that's been burning since Monday in Dumfries and Galloway is now under control, while fire crews in Wales have received hundreds of calls about grass fires in the last 24 hours.