Six people airlifted from Torridon wildfire

Liathach fire above Torridon village - picture by Steve Carter The fire at Torridon covered nine square miles

Six people and a dog have been airlifted from mountains as wild fires sweep across the Highlands.

The rescue took place at the Torridon mountains where fire engulfed nine square miles - one of at least 29 fires across the north-west Highlands.

Other large fires were at Glenshiel in the Kintail area, Dundonnell near Ullapool and Inverkirkaig, Sutherland.

A blaze on the Balmoral estate near Loch Muick is also being fought and a woman was earlier rescued from a beach.

New fires broke out at Lochailort, south-east of Arisaig, Kinlochleven in Lochaber, and at Dava woods near Inverurie in Aberdeenshire on Monday evening.

The National Trust for Scotland (NTS) said forest regeneration projects had been "devastated" by the fires.

Some 150 firefighters have been involved in tackling the fire at Torridon, in Wester Ross, where a helicopter was used to water bomb the site.

'Heartbreaking loss'

Fire crews also called in a helicopter to help fight the blaze on the Balmoral Estate.

Three appliances and a forestry unit are battling a heather fire on a hill near Loch Muick. A fire service spokesman said the front was at least 800m long.

Heath fires at Kintail in Ross-shire (Pic by Tina MacLeod) Fire crews used a helicopter to water bomb the flames at Kintail

Staff from the nearby Invercauld Estate have been called in to assist with the firefighting.

The beach rescue happened at Ardnish near Lochailart when a young woman was picked up by the Mallaig lifeboat.

The fires in Dundonnell and Kinlochleven have been put out but firefighters have said they might have to evacuate some homes in Inverkirkaig.

The fires at Torridon and Kintail are now said to be under control but forest regeneration projects in those two areas have been affected.

A NTS tree plantation at Kintail Village was engulfed by flames late on Sunday night.

Pete Selman, director of property and visitor services for NTS, said: "Despite the best efforts of the crews on the ground, once the fires reached the trees, the flames leapt as high as 40 feet.

"At one point it looked as if the plantation might have been saved but the fires flared up again and, as it was getting dark, the teams had to come off the hill for their own safety.

Wild fire at Kintail seen from Loch Duich (Pic by Willie Fraser, NTS) Heath fires at Kintail destroyed trees in a National Trust for Scotland plantation

"The loss of the mature trees is heartbreaking to all those involved in forest regeneration in the area over many years. However, the main thing is that no-one was hurt."

The wild fires also threatened the Inverailing forestry scheme on the Torridon estate, as well as Torridon House and nearby woodlands.

The trust said the forest regeneration was part of a carefully orchestrated plan to join up existing patches of ancient woodland by re-establishing the Caledonian pine forest and is one of its key conservation objectives.

Mr Selman praised the efforts of the fire crews tackling the "highly dangerous" blazes.

He added: "Crews showed great courage and determination in tackling the fires, which were being stoked by a combination of very dry and warm conditions and strong winds.

"We will look at our options once the immediate priorities are dealt with and our aim will be to begin re-establishment of the affected area of forest once again."

'Difficult terrain'

He also urged members of the public not to light fires or barbecues on dry grassland and scrub.

David Gill, Highlands and Islands Fire and Rescue Service area manager, said no lives had been at risk.

Heath fire at Loch Katrine seen from summit of Ben A'an (Pic by William Craig) Fire crews were also tackling a blaze at Loch Katrine in the Trossachs

Earlier, he said the Torridon fire was in "difficult terrain".

"It is a mountainous area so the fire is gaining hold pretty quickly where there is a depth of heather and gorse on the vertical slopes," he said.

"It actually looks quite impressive from the roadside."

Mr Gill said the fire service had managed to protect properties in the area.

A number of roads were also closed while firefighters tackled a blaze at Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park.

Central Scotland Fire and Rescue service said a large area of scrub and gorse was ablaze at Glengyle, at the northern end of Loch Katrine.

The brigade said it was also using a helicopter to drop water in the area in a bid to douse the flames.

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