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Loch Maree island beauty spot fire sparks safety appeal

By Hector MacKenzie

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Loch Maree fire. Picture: Beinn Eighe National Nature Reserve.
Loch Maree fire. Picture: Beinn Eighe National Nature Reserve.

A RAPID response by firefighters to a potentially devastating peat blaze put a pristine area of treasured Caledonian pine woods at risk.

The incident last week centred on Eilean Eachainn, one of several small islands in Loch Maree.

The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service was alerted at 11.11am on Friday, September 4 to a peat fire on the island at the remote Wester Ross beauty spot.

Operations control mobilised one appliance to the scene.

There were no casualties and crews left after making the area safe.

The islands are a key part of the 48 sq. km that make up Beinn Eighe National Nature Reserve.

The NNR confirmed it had been alerted to the fire.

It said: "With the help of Gairloch Fire Service we were able to get the blaze under control. This fire was started by a camp fire with those responsible nowhere to be seen. In Scotland we are privileged to have great access rights – however with this comes responsibility.

"The outdoor access code gives clear guidance on lighting fires and other access issues. Never light an open fire during prolonged dry periods or in areas such as forests, woods. The Loch Maree islands are home some of the most pristine ancient Caledonian pine woods in Scotland and we can all help keep them that way by following the outdoor access code and acting responsibly and with respect for the environment.

"Thanks to Gairloch Fire Service, Gairloch and Letterewe Estates and other reserve staff for all their help."

The incident prompted widespread praise for the quick response as well as anger over what many see as a growing trend for irresponsible use of camp fires across the Highlands – a trend widely noted in the post-lockdown period.

Dave Cox wrote: "We really need to stamp out this idea of needing 'camp fires'. Responsible outdoor folk have a stove to cook on and sufficient gear to keep warm. Seems the thousands of scorch marks left everywhere are from people who are pretending to be Bear Grylls, who still think they're in the cub scouts or who only want it for 'atmosphere' as if the great Scottish outdoors isn't atmospheric enough!"

Carol Carr took to the Beinn Eigh Facebook page to state: "I cannot believe that people are so irresponsible to even think of lighting fires. Does no one know or read the country code? When the weather has made woodland so dry that it can burst into. flame just by shining through glass. It is the absolute ignorance of tourists that is so appalling. Surely schoolchildren are taught the correct way to conduct themselves whilst in the countryside. Adults too should know how to use the Country Code.

Otherwise heath and hill fires take off and destroy the whole area and put wildlife at risk."

Related: BBC show Landward puts Wester Ross beauty spot on screen

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