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The National Trust for Scotland (NTS) says it is fearful that last week’s wildfire that burned almost 500 hectares of its Balmacara Estate near Kyle of Lochalsh will have had a severe impact on local wildlife, including pine martens.
The blaze which broke out last Wednesday morning eventually burned for two days across a four-mile front before finally being extinguished on Friday.
In a statement, NTS thanked the efforts of the Scottish Fire and Rescue, which saw as many as 11 fire appliances in attendance, assisted by trust staff and a water-bombing helicopter.
The fire was put out without any loss or injury to people or livestock and, although the flames came close to properties, none were damaged.
NTS says that although it will take time to assess the extent of the impact on the landscape, the vast majority of the area affected is common grazings (rough moorland).
Commenting on Friday after the fire was put out, Iain Turnbull, NTS’s Property Manager of the Balmacara Estate, praised Scottish Fire and Rescue for what he called an ‘outstanding job’ of controlling and eventually extinguishing the blaze.
‘I also want to pay tribute to Skyhook Helicopters for their role in fighting the blaze and also to the local volunteers and members of the community who looked after the fire-fighters throughout the incident, providing them with food and refreshments,’ he said.
‘While the cause of the wildfire is still uncertain, it is a salutary reminder that all of us must take the utmost care in the countryside during dry spells.
‘Our next step is to make a full assessment of the affected area and decide on what happens next to help recovery.’
And concerns are emerging this week over the impact the fire will have had on the wildlife which makes its home on the Balamacara Estate.
A National Trust for Scotland spokesperson told the Lochaber Times: ‘It is too early to have formed and accurate impression of the effects of the fire on wildlife but we will be setting up a monitoring exercise.
‘There must have been an impact on mammals, especially the smaller ones. The other species most likely affected would be pine marten, but it is impossible to say to what extent at this stage.
‘In terms of birds, ground-nesting species like meadow pipit, twite and such are most likely to have been affected if they had started breeding – but it is early in the season so they can probably find suitable habitat elsewhere and start again.
‘Also, red throated divers have been recorded on the small higher lochans and they may have been disturbed by the fire and activity, but again they may try breeding again.
‘Just under under 600 hectares, or six square kilometres, were affected by the blaze – by far our largest hill fire experienced on trust land.
‘Later this week, we will be using a drone to map the extent of the damage more accurately and this will also help us better assess the effects on wildlife.’