Scotland

Campers told not to burn toilet roll

Wildfire in Lochalsh
Image caption Wildfires, such as this one in Lochalsh in April, can threaten rural homes

Campers have been urged not to follow the tradition of burning toilet paper after using it.

People caught short in the great outdoors are often told to burn toilet roll, which takes a long time to break down and can blow about in the wind.

But the Mountaineering Council of Scotland (MCofS) said the practice increased the risk of wild fires in the recent warm weather.

It also warned about the dangers of campfires.

Large areas of the Highlands were lit up by a spate of wildfires earlier this year, with extra firefighters having to be drafted in from other parts of Scotland to help beleaguered local crews.

Temperatures in some areas of the country have reached 29C this week, with the lack of rain drying out vegetation and the ground itself greatly increasing the danger of even small fires getting out of control.

Heather Morning, a mountain safety advisor with MCofS, warned: "When 'going' outdoors, many people are taught to burn their loo roll. Otherwise it takes a long time to break down and can blow around in the wind - unsightly and unhygienic.

"But the thought of galloping down a hill with your trousers around your ankles, fleeing a fire you just set with loo roll, doesn't bear thinking about."

She said although the idea of sitting around a fire was a romantic one for many campers, it can quickly turn into a nightmare.

Ms Morning said: "Dry grass catches fire especially easily, but fire will spread quickly through any dry vegetation and fires can even smoulder in the ground itself, where it is peaty or full of roots, bursting into flames maybe hours after the campfire seems to have been extinguished."

'Camping stoves'

With the difficulties of access and water supplies facing firefighters in remote areas, a fire in the great outdoors can do immense damage over a huge area before being brought under control, endangering wildlife and humans as well as rural properties, Ms Morning said.

She added: "For cooking or even just heating water, camping stoves can be cheap and easily available, and are so much more efficient.

"If you can't get a fire lit it can spell disaster for your dinner, but if you can't get a fire out, then it will be a disaster for everyone - not to mention dangerous to yourself."

Once an integral part of camping, campfires are becoming increasingly unacceptable, the MCofS said.

Apart from the danger to wildlife, fires can cause environmental damage and use up dead wood which is a valuable habitat for insects, which are essential for a healthy bird population.

Fires also leave scarring on the ground which, in popular areas, is unsightly and can take years to clear.

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