There is currently an army of gamekeepers and local fire services who work together to stop the spread of wildfires in the warmer, dryer summer months.

To prevent such fires taking place gamekeepers have been busy carrying out seasonal burning and cutting of heather to remove over-dominant vegetation and enable the heather to regenerate healthily.

When carried out carefully by professionals, seasonal burning or muirburn provides breaks in continuous moorland cover and reduces fuel load giving opportunities to control wildfires and thereby reducing the amount of damage caused.

The main muirburn season is between 1st October and 15th April and the Scottish Government’s Muirburn Code (currently under review) sets out best practice guidelines for land managers.

The fire service has access to a fire danger rating system which alerts us to the risk of wildfires based on various factors such as temperature, wind speed and predicted rainfall. So far this year, the incidence of wildfire has been low, but conditions can change very quickly.

This is, in no small part, due to the good management practises being carried out by grouse moor owners and gamekeepers across Scotland. Seasonal burning when conducted in adherence of the muirburn code is one of the most effective means of preventing and significantly reducing the risk of wildfires on moorland.

Gamekeepers have shown a great understanding and knowledge of the land they manage on a daily basis and the risks and benefits of conducting muirburn. The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service often work in partnership with gamekeepers if a wildfire does break out because keepers have the local knowledge and experience to assist Firefighters and such situations can be very resource intensive.

When an estate intends to carry out muirburn as part of its annual land management activities they inform their area’s Operational Control Room and provide details such as; the name and contact details of the person in charge, the exact location of burning with grid references, the distance to the nearest town or residential area and the intended start and finish times.

This information allows us to cross reference any reports we may receive from members of the public who contact us after seeing smoke or fire in the countryside. We are then able to reassure people that this is either carefully controlled burning within a certain area or a situation where emergency services would attend the scene.

Therefore, good relations and communications between the fire service and gamekeepers at a local level has been absolutely key to the Muirburn Codes success and any ongoing improvements.

Bruce Farquharson

Bruce is an Area Manager in the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service, he also sits on the muirburn code review steering group.

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