Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Wildfire burns swathes of Balmoral estate

Willie Fraser,
National Trust for Scotland
See today's article in The Scotsman.  This provides a useful summary of the current state of play.

It is early to start drawing any conclusions from this spate of fires, but here are some initial thoughts:

  • The excellent work of the Fire & Rescue Services (FRSs) is in support of the land managers from private and other estates, who are in the front line.  They are working alongside the FRSs using to the full their local knowledge, fire management experience and specialist equipment to help control these fires.
  • The value of this mutual aid between the public and private sectors cannot be overstated.  It is hoped that this will come out in the wash-up to these fires.  We need more resources to develop fire groups across the whole of the UK to harness the abilities of land managers and their specialist equipment to work effectively alongside FRSs to tackle wildfires.
  • Helicopters are invaluable tools for fighting large-scale fires on difficult terrain but it should be emphasised that they are usually provided by landowners, not by the Fire & Rescue Services.
  • Many of the fires are being started by carelessness - have we done enough to raise public awareness of the risks? 
  • Arsonists are a significant source of fire.
  • Very few fires appear to have started from out of control heather burning / muirburn.
  • Blame is often placed on smokers and discarded cigarettes.  I am not a smoker but I always feel that when the cause of a fire is not known someone blames the smoker, forgetting that fire is a natural phenomenon.

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