Wildfire safety message shifts up a gear

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Scottish Fire and Rescue personnel are heading off the beaten track to drive home their wildfire prevention message.

Firefighters have been spotted riding bicycles down country lanes and around towns in the West Lothian area as they try to deliver an urgent safety message before the schools break up for summer.

Scott Williamson and Robert Thomson are two of the firefighters who have stepped up a gear in their efforts to reach out to the young people.

The hi-tech mountain bikes Scott and Robert are cycling are more than equipped to handle whatever terrain comes along when the dynamic duo decide to head off road to spread their fire prevention message to as many people as possible.

Local authority liaison officer Robert said: “This innovative initiative is one of the first of its kind in Scotland and already we are beginning to see the benefits of this.

“These bikes make it possible for us to reach out and interact with the community and provide a mobile, visible and accessible presence in a way that was not possible before.

“With this we can approach youngsters, who may be gathering in difficult to reach areas, engage them in conversation and the bikes themselves provide a talking point.”

The fire cyclists are full kitted out in high visibility clothing, helmets and protective wear, setting a fine example of cycling safety while they are engaging with others about fire prevention.

The bicycles have been in use for over a month now and keen cyclist Robert says the community has reacted well to seeing their local firefighters out and about.

He said: “We get a lot of people approaching us and speaking to us and it really helps us to spread our safety messages in the community. At the moment much of our focus is on the dangers of wildfires, and encouraging residents to be vigilant to the potential causes and how to avoid them.”

As well as heading out on their own community cycles, firefighters will often work in tandem with their emergency service partners in Police Scotland and the local authority’s community safety teams, pooling their resources to tackle common issues in the area.

Robert said: “These bikes allow both ourselves and our hardworking partners to get out into the more rural areas, off road and parks where we can work to prevent issues such as wildfires from happening in the first place.”

Some of the advice given out includes the creation of a safety zone around your home for at least ten metres in all directions.

A safety zone is a well planned, well maintained area which is as free as possible of combustible materials that could support the spread of a wildfire.

Any kind of vegetation will burn – mature trees, shrubs, grass and even your woodpile are all potential fuels and can easily ignite, so managing the space around your house and buildings is of prime importance.

Prevention is the best form of defence against any form of fire and parents need to make sure they have an important talk with their children to ensure they know about the dangers associated with playing with matches and lighters.

Visit www.firescotland.gov.uk/your-safety/wildfires for more information and advice.