NE Scotland, Orkney & Shetland

Major wildfire could be one of the largest for years

Moray fire Image copyright Carrbridge Fire Station

A major wildfire in Moray could be one of the largest seen in the UK for years, according to firefighters.

The blaze near Paul's Hill wind farm at Knockando, south west of Elgin, destroyed more than 20 square miles of grassland.

Dry conditions and high winds caused the flames to spread aggressively and at its height 80 firefighters were tackling the blaze.

Area manager Bruce Farquharson said crews would remain on site for days.

And the experienced firefighter, chairman of the Scottish Wildfire Forum, said: "This is shaping up to be one of the largest wildfires that the UK has seen in years.

"The conditions, including the weather, the terrain and the sheer scale of the incident have made it very challenging.

"This type of incident requires a large amount of resources, and we have called upon the resilience of our national service to tackle it.

"Additionally, we have received additional support from our partners - which includes two helicopters which have been working alongside our crews to tackle the fire in difficult-to-reach areas."

Image copyright JASPERIMAGE
Image caption Firefighters have been tackling the blaze

Several properties close to the fire have been evacuated as a precaution and the blaze created a large smoke plume which could be seen from space, the fire service said.

Mr Farquharson added: "We are advising people who live in the path of the smoke to keep their windows and doors closed as a precautionary measure.

"Additionally, many roads in the area remain closed and we are asking people to avoid the area for their own safety, and to allow full access for the emergency services."

Police, ambulance and local estate staff joined the fire fighting efforts, along with Forestry Commission staff and local wind farm workers.

Image copyright Li├╣saidh
Image caption A huge plume of smoke was billowing across the Moray sky

The blaze was burning on four different fronts.

The Paul's Hill wind farm, which consists of 28 turbines, is operated by Fred Olsen Renewables.

The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service has been on wildfire alert across Scotland for number of days because of what they described as "tinder dry" conditions.

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