Outdoor fire safety message pitched at campers

Firefighters worked on for more than 15 hours to bring this wildfire on the outskirts of Oban under control in April 2021. The cause of this fire is unknown.Photograph: Maurice Wilkins.

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Safety advice to prevent avoidable fires in the Scottish countryside is being pitched at campers as summer time approaches.

Warmer weather and the increased numbers of people visiting the countryside as pandemic restrictions ease create a greater risk of fire.

Not using candles in tents or never leaving camp fires unattended are just some of the tips being highlighted for a safer summer.

The advice comes as new data shows the number of grass fires more than doubled in some parts of Scotland last summer, including the Highland.

All grassland, woodland and crop fires reported in Argyll and Bute, East Dunbartonshire, West Dunbartonshire went from 13 (June 24, 2019 to August 26, 2019) to 22 during the same period in 2020.

A nationwide increase of nine per cent was recorded – between June 22 and August 24, 2020, fires affecting grassland, woodland and crops went up from 656 total incidents in 2019 to 712 in 2020.

Many outdoor fires are started deliberately or are due to careless or irresponsible behaviour.

Deputy Assistant Chief Officer Alasdair Perry, SFRS Head of Prevention and Protection, said: ‘We want people to enjoy spending time outdoors, but it’s important to create a safe environment for you, your loved-ones and the surrounding environment because even small fires have the potential to turn into a wildfire.

‘Before lighting any outdoor fires, check for any restrictions or permissions required by the landowner and make sure you use a fire safe pit or container that can be properly extinguished before you leave.

‘The vast majority of us wish to keep our country beautiful, but litter can seriously injure wildlife and items such as glass bottles in strong sunlight have the potential to start a fire.

‘Remember to keep your area tidy and always clear up when done.’

There are also other dangers associated with camping as DACO Perry continued: ‘Be aware that fire destroys tents very quickly, so use torches instead of candles.

‘Never take a portable or disposable barbeque inside a tent to cook or to use as a heat source because carbon monoxide is also a potential risk. And gas barbeques should also be used in a well-ventilated area.’

Those choosing to go away in caravans for a staycation are also being reminded to have a working smoke alarm fitted.

A fire in a caravan or mobile home spreads much more quickly than it would in a house or flat and there are on average almost 100 caravan fires in Scotland every year.

Summer also brings with it the temptation to swim outdoors, but lochs, rivers and reservoirs also pose a risk to those enjoying nature.

Cold water shock can leave people gasping for breath and it’s potentially fatal. Therefore, the advice is to avoid unsupervised waterways.

More safer summer advice can be found online at: www.firescotland.gov.uk/your-safety/safer-summer.aspx

Don’t forget if you’re leaving your home for an extended period of time this summer, remember to switch off electrical appliances before you set off.

If you suspect someone of acting irresponsibly, contact Police Scotland on the non-emergency number 101 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.