Sunday, 7 April 2013

Wildfire - 'the headlines don't help'

Photo: Andy Law
We may not be out of the woods yet with this year's wildfire season, but at least we appear to have reached a pause in proceedings. BBC News has published an article, which attempts to get behind the scenes and starts to draw some conclusions.

The Scottish Crofting Foundation is quoted amongst other rhetoric that seeks to spread the cause far and wide, and even includes a reference to sheep ticks. It is good to hear someone extolling the virtues of muirburn from a practical viewpoint - well done the SCF. But maybe, the BBC approach is getting closer to the truth: there is no single cause of the wildfire problems, this year, and there is no single person or group of people to blame. Thrashing around looking for someone to blame will not help, and sensational headlines will not solve the problem.

I think we need to take this opportunity to start thinking about wildfire as a regular feature of moorland and upland management.  We should move beyond the shock-horror response when it occurs, as if it is not expected. We should take the view that wildfire is likely to occur, and plan for it, rather than being caught on the back foot every time it happens.

I have been giving some thought to how the review of the Muirburn Code can address some of the issues that had been highlighted by the recent events. Perhaps we can start a discussion that will help feed into the review process. I have started drafting the report from the Critique Phase of the review of the Code, and I would welcome ideas from anyone who has a view on how the revised Code can be made relevant and useful for wildfire events, as well as muirburn.

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