|Photo: Greg Little|
The thrust that landowners do all the burning and that all the fires are escaped muirburn fires was interesting. The suggestion that muirburn was all connected with grouse moor management was also an indication of the perceptions with the Fire & Rescue Service and the BBC. I do not think that the Fort William area is renowned for its grouse shooting.
My interview was recorded and therefore I was not aware of the views that had been expressed in the earlier part of the article. This perception of who carries out muirburn is an interesting issue and is something I will need to take into account in leading the review of the Muirburn Code and its subsequent promotion. There is a danger that in looking to explain this perception, the conclusion will be reached that this is an attack on grouse moor management. However, could an alternative explanation be that the interviewer simply did not know any better and thought that muirburn was only carried out as part of grouse moor management? There might be a wider perception issue to address.
I do not have any information to confirm my view, but I would expect that the amount of moorland / hill burnt for farming or deer purposes is a significant percentage of the area burnt for grouse, even if it does not exceed it. Therefore, to place all the 'blame' for wildfire at the door of landowners interested in grouse moor management is an error.
There is no doubt that any fire that gets out of control is unfortunate, but we must accept that it will happen. I would like to see the review of the Muirburn Code placing a greater emphasis on reducing the number of out of control fires resulting from prescribed burning. This could be achieved by improving the level of training both through transferred experience and by increasing the understanding of fire behaviour.
Liaison with the Scottish Fire Service should also be increased through a re-envigorated Scottish Wildfire Forum. The Forum should seek to link the experience of fire fighting in the Scottish FRS with the experience of prescribed burning available within the land management sector. The two are complementary, especially when the use of suppression fires is considered - using fire to fight fire.