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Fire service to start using controlled blazes in response to growing wildfire threat

A forest fire in Italy. Similar events are likely to become more common in Scotland. Image credit: PA

Fire service to start using controlled blazes in response to growing wildfire threat

Scottish Fire and Rescue Service will start using controlled blazes in response to the growing threat of wildfires in Scotland.

With the SFRS issuing 21 wildfire danger warnings last year, up from six the year before, the service will begin training staff in fire management methods more commonly associated with hot countries.

Area manager Bruce Farquharson said climate change was making wildfires more common.

He said: "What we have seen over the last week is not surprising.

"When we have a cold winter, combined with easterly winds and then a warm spring - that is an ideal storm for wildfires to happen.

"Climate change is a factor, we are going to see drier winters and warmer springs so we are going to need to change the way we deal with wildfires.”

Controlled burning is based in setting fire to potential fuel such as heather or grass. SFRS said the service would look to formally start the practice next spring in the areas likely to be worst hit.

Farquharson added: "It might sound a bit odd to some but what we are aiming to do is to teach some of our key stations how to use fire to fight wildfires.

"You clear a strip of vegetation as a base using hand tools and you slowly burn back from that to create an ever widening area of what we call a black strip so that when the fire reaches this strip, it burns out itself.

"Gamekeepers have traditionally done it but the fire service has never done it in Scotland before.”

The fire service is planning a campaign to raise public awareness of wildfires, alongside new signs in the countryside to warn of the current status of the wildfire threat.

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