Controlled burning may have sparked hill fire

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A FIRE which swept through 100 acres of hill land near St Mary’s Loch this week likely started when controlled burning got out of control, said firefighters yesterday.

Up to seven crews and two specialists vehicles attended the blaze which started late Monday afternoon.

But difficult terrain hampered the work of the 50 firefighters who tackled the flames for two days and crews had to work on foot using beaters and water backpacks on the steep hillside in a bid to extinguish the blaze.

The emergency service appeared to get the fire under control overnight from Monday to Tuesday but it started to spread again on Tuesday afternoon and crews once again battled to stop it.

By Tuesday night there were three appliances at the scene near the A708 at the loch and fire crews maintained a watching brief overnight.

A spokesperson for the service said firefighters were finally satisfied yesterday morning that all the heather had burnt away and the fire was out.

She said: “It appears the fire may have started as a result of controlled burning that got out of control, probably due to the exceptionally dry weather conditions.

“Gorse and grass fires are unpredictable and can get out of control and spread rapidly. This makes for a challenging job for firefighters trying to get the fire under control and anticipate potential spread. It can also be physically arduous for crews fighting the blaze on foot.

“The fire and rescue service urge members of the public to remain vigilant at all times when they are out in the countryside. In dry weather such as we’ve had this week, take extra care to avoid starting a fire. Dispose of cigarettes butts properly, ensuring they are extinguished first and never leave glass bottle lying out.”