The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service is appealing to everyone in the countryside to pay close attention to wildfire danger warnings following a major hill fire near Sandness.
The warning comes as weather forecasters predict dry and windy conditions in the coming days and a high pressure system is dominating the UK’s weather. This has historically been linked to elevated wildfire risks at this time of year.
Whilst no specific wildfire warnings are in place forecasters have advised that the situation, which has the potential to bring dry continental air to Scotland, is likely to persist for the coming week.
The public can help prevent wildfires by making sure they dispose of litter and smoking materials carefully while in rural areas.
There are a number of things land managers can do to help prevent wildfires, including strict adherence to the Muirburn Code, which applies to the controlled burning of heather within the permitted season.
Fire crews from Lerwick, Scalloway and Walls tackled a blaze involving around 70 acres of grass and heather in Shetland this afternoon (Thursday 17 March).
Crews used beaters to knock down the flames and successfully bring under control the incident near the Mousavord Loch at Sandness.
Group manager Myles Murray, the incident commander, said: “This was an extremely challenging wildfire involving a large area and the crews did a truly excellent job to extinguish it.
“Wildfires are inherently unpredictable and we knew that if the wind changed direction the flames could threaten power lines supplying electricity to our communities, which would obviously have a very serious impact on homes and businesses.
“We also know that wildfires damage the local environment and have devastating effects on wildlife so it is important to bring them under control quickly.
“Our crews had to operate in arduous conditions and it was a physically demanding operation, but their skill and professionalism ensured this fire was successfully extinguished before the power supply was threatened and more environmental damage done.”
Four appliances were involved in the operation, with the first sent from Lerwick in response to an emergency call made shortly before 12:50pm.
It was joined at the scene by others from Walls, Scalloway and Lerwick after the incident commander requested additional crews to help extinguish the fire before it could escalate.
Crews had brought the fire under control by 2:40pm and fire cover was maintained for the rest of the island throughout the incident.
Further advice is available on the Your Safety section of the SFRS website, www.firescotland.gov.uk, where links can be found to both the Muirburn Code and the Scottish Outdoor Access Code.
Many wildfires are started deliberately or are due to careless, reckless or irresponsible behaviour.
Anyone who sees someone acting suspiciously, recklessly or irresponsibly in the countryside should contact Police Scotland on 101 or pass information anonymously to Scotland Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.