Fire chief spells out the shocking cost of Falkirk’s summer fires scourge

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There were no less than 251 woodland fires in Falkirk and West Lothian alone last year - just seven short of such incidents recorded for the whole city of Glasgow.

Across Scotland firefighters battled a summertime surge of nearly 2,500 fires.

The shock statistics, released to coincide with a new summer safety campaign, show a national rise of 62 incidents from the previous year - and hundreds of fires were started deliberately.

Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) Assistant Chief Officer (ACO) Ross Haggart said there are clear warning signs the disturbing pattern will continue this year.

“We have seen already this year the massive impact a large fire in the open can have”, he said.

“Huge swathes of land can be left ravaged by these fires, which can spread easily through high winds.

“The SFRS works tirelessly every year with our partners to help keep communities safe from these types of incidents, but communities can help us too.

“That’s why we are appealing to people to take great care – it is crucial that people act safely and responsibly in rural environments and follow the countryside code”.

He added: “Just one heat source, like a campfire ember, can cause it to ignite, and if the wind changes direction even the smallest fire can spread uncontrollably and devastate entire hillsides.

“People can help us by making sure they dispose of litter and smoking materials carefully while in rural areas.”

From June till August last year the number of intentional secondary fires rocketed from more than 1700 incidents to almost 3200.

More than 500 deliberate primary fires were also noted during the same timeframe.

This week, the SFRS launched its #StampItOut Summer safety campaign to warn how the Service will do everything in its power to help Police Scotland trace those who put other people in danger.

ACO Haggart said: “Every firefighter takes their preventative efforts very seriously – at the end of the day, we’d rather prevent a fire from happening in the first place.

“In the lead up to summer fire fighters, Community Safety Advocates, teachers and community groups all help in delivering talks designed to inform young people of the potential consequences of deliberate fires. Parents and carers can also help us share the message and achieve our aim of driving down deliberate fires.

“Ultimately I’d urge our communities to support our aim of reducing deliberate fires.

“These incidents put lives, property and the environment at risk.

“They can also delay firefighters in getting to a real emergency such as a house fire where every minute counts.

“Firefighters will be there to respond when called upon, but please think twice before deliberately starting a fire.”

For more information visit www.firescotland.gov.uk/your-safety/wildfires.aspx