Highlands & Islands

Fire service issues prosecution warning over Highland fires

Image caption A helicopter drops water in the Highlands, where dry weather has seen wildfire spread rapidly

The fire service has urged land owners and land managers to stop controlled burning after almost 200 wildfires in the Highlands over the past week.

Landowners who fail to heed the advice could face prosecution.

It comes as one large-scale wildfire is still burning at Achmore, near Stromeferry in Wester Ross.

Four fire crews have been there overnight trying to hold back the flames - which were at one point threatening to engulf properties.

The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service has warned that conditions are "clearly unsuitable" for controlled burning, which is used to clear areas of land.

Legal muir burning is being carried out at the moment by hill farmers and landowners.

Fires are deliberately set to burn off long grasses and heather to encourage new grazing for sheep and grouse.

The fire service has issued a list of 17 potential criminal offences associated with setting fires of this kind.

It includes leaving a fire unattended, being unable to control a fire or having not made provision for its proper control.

The service has issued a reminder that these laws determining when, where and how fires may be set, could result in prosecution if broken.

'Consolidate resources'

Group manager Fraser Nickson said: "The weather doesn't appear to be getting any wetter for the next few days and we would request that land owners and land managers stop all controlled burning immediately because we feel that the current conditions are unsuitable for muir burning.

"We are very stretched at the moment, it would assist us in getting on top of these incidents and ensuring that the fire and rescue service can try and consolidate our resources and give us a bit of respite from the wildfires."

On Tuesday evening crews were dealing with large fires in six Highland sites with 21 appliances in use as well as two helicopters.

More water was dropped from the air onto a wildfire at Kishorn in the west Highlands.

In the past week in the Highlands and Islands, crews have been called out to deal with dozens of fires.

Retained part-time firefighters have been called in to help fire crews tackle the blazes.

An unseasonably dry March has contributed to wildfires spreading, despite the cold weather.

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