Visitors to the countryside are urged to help prevent wildfires

People are being urged to be vigilant in a bid to stop wildfires in the Renfrewshire countryside during the hot summer months.

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 & Rescue Service to prevent potentially devastating outbreaks.

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There have been at least 12 wildfires in the past five years on land owned and managed as water catchments covering thousands of hectares in different parts of the country.

In April, fire fighters were called out twice in just one week to the Gleniffer Braes following reports of youths setting fires in the area.

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

David Anderson, a catchment liaison officer in Scottish Water’s land management team, said: “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.

“Fires have the potential of setting peat on fire which can burn for long periods of time, possibly for a week or more. If this happens, it can destroy the carbon capture properties of a healthy bog or moorland.

“Soils are one of the biggest carbon reservoirs on earth, storing more of this element than the atmosphere and the above-ground biomass put together. Usually grass, heath and heather would grow back but there are areas where peat can burn and soils are lost.

“So wildfires are something that people in all parts of the country need to try to prevent and we need everyone, young or old, to help do their bit to protect the environment, including wildlife and drinking water sources.

“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.”

SFRS has issued a safety warning following a number of deliberate fires in the area.
Pictures supplied via Facebook by reader Sally Wylie.
Aftermath of fires at Gleniffer Braes in Paisley.
(Image: Paisley Daily Express, UGC MSR)

Wildfires can be very damaging to the natural environment, ecology and wildlife, such as nesting birds, voles, frogs and insects.

As well as the potential impact on wildlife habitats, wildfires can burn valuable carbon stores, releasing greenhouse gases back into the atmosphere and losing their ability to capture carbon.

Fires can also expose soil, increasing the risk of run-off into source waters, which can put pressure on the treatment process at water treatment works.

Deputy assistant chief officer Bruce Farquharson, the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service’s wildlife lead, said: “We are seeing wildfire happening more frequently in late winter and early spring and having higher fire intensity towards the end of summer and in early autumn.

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.

“Wildfires are incredibly dangerous and unpredictable and very challenging for firefighters and people should never start a fire unless they can extinguish it and should call the fire service as quickly as possible if they can’t.”

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Daily Record – Paisley