Responding to reports on the cause of recent wildfires in the far north and west of Scotland, Scottish Land & Estates’ investigations have confirmed out of control grass burning on non-managed land as the culprit.
A long period of unusually dry weather, easterly winds and low temperatures in the West of Scotland have created tinderbox conditions in 2013 and due to a fall in grazing livestock in recent years, more dry matter has remained season-on-season, resulting in much hotter fires which are particularly difficult to extinguish.
Tim Baynes, of Scottish Land & Estates, explained:
“The main land use in the areas affected is crofting and hill farming, where burning off the grass each spring to generate regrowth is a traditional form of management. From our investigations, it is clear that these fires have overwhelmingly been started as a result of grass burning getting out of control, as well as some cases where walkers, fishermen and other access takers have accidentally begun fires and failed to put them out properly.
“While our members have been ready and willing to help in the wildfire fights, it has been wrongly reported that moorland burning is the cause of the fires since there is almost no burning of heather for grouse management in these parts of Scotland, as there are very few grouse. Indeed none of the wildfires have been on land used as grouse moor.
“Carefully managed muirburn should not be confused with the burning of large areas of grassland for grazing in the north and west of Scotland”.
Scottish Land & Estates Chairman Luke Borwick earlier this week confirmed his members’ commitment to fighting wildfires and promoting correct adherence to the Muirburn Code:
“Contingency plans created by Scottish Land & Estates and other organisations, on the back of the bad fire season in 2011, have been initiated and we have offered support to the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service. We have members near the fires ready to volunteer their resources to help.
“We have been working closely with local Fire and Rescue Service’s and echo their call for muirburn restrictions, though any restriction should only be targeted on high risk areas in the west and not applied uniformly across the country. The Eastern Highlands for example in many places are still blanketed in snow, and controlled burning will still be safe, as the snow retreats, for some time there.”