Scottish Water joins calls to prevent wildfire damage

Skye resident Drew McGrath captured this dramatic image of the flames from the wildfire at Kyle last evening (Wednesday). Photograph: Drew McGrath. NO F18 Kyle fire
Skye resident Drew McGrath captured this dramatic image of the flames from the wildfire at Kyle in April. Photograph: Drew McGrath.

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Scottish Water has joined calls to raise awareness of wildfire risks to prevent damage and help protect the environment and water supplies.

The country’s public water services body is working with Forestry and Land Scotland and the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service to prevent potentially devastating outbreaks.

There have been at least 12 wildfires in the past five years on land owned and managed as water catchments, including on the Isle of Skye.

About 70 per cent of Scotland’s public drinking water supply has its source in approximately 525,000 hectares of peatland and moorland.

As well as impacting wildlife habitats, wildfires can burn valuable carbon stores – trees and peatland – releasing greenhouse gases back into the atmosphere and losing their ability to capture carbon.

Fire ashes, which are low volatile organic compounds, cause high phenols which pass through the water treatment process and react with chlorine to create taste and odour issues for customers.

The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service’s wildlife lead Bruce Farquharson said: ‘In my view, the changes are due to climate change and weather conditions creating very dry fuel for fires and due to there being more people in the countryside.’

David Anderson, a catchment liaison officer at Scottish Water, added: ‘We are seeing a dramatic increase in wildfires with the traditional wetter areas experiencing longer, drier periods than normal. And we are seeing wildfires in areas not normally associated with wildfires.

‘The message is simple – respect and care for the environment, take all your litter home, leave no trace and, if you need to light a fire, use a stove rather than an open fire.’