Governments across the UK have been urged to make better preparations for wildfires following a devastating blaze in Scotland, which is one of the largest the country has ever seen.
The fire in Cannich near Inverness began on Sunday and was not brought under control until Wednesday, with the plume of smoke it generated clearly visible from space.
In its most recent update on Thursday, the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) said more than 20 firefighters remained at the scene in the Highlands to “dampen down the area”.
How big is the fire?
It said the burn area covers approximately 15 square kilometres, or around 1,500 hectares. At its height, nine fire engines tackled the blaze, with a helicopter also used to “water bomb” the area.
Due to the prolonged dry weather, the SFRS has issued a “very high” wildfire risk warning for many parts of east, central and southern Scotland which does not expire until 5 June.
SFRS Group Commander Niall MacLennan said: “We currently have five fire appliances, including specialist resources in attendance as firefighters continue to dampen down the area and tackle hotspots that are deep-seated into the ground.
“This has been a challenging large-scale fire, which has no doubt impacted on the rural community here. Our crews, who have been working tirelessly since Sunday to tackle this wildfire, will remain at the scene until it’s made safe.”
How did the fire start?
The precise cause of the fire has not been established, but Forestry and Land Scotland (FLS) said wild camping was likely to be behind it, with the public being urged to be careful when building campfires and disposing of cigarettes.
People living near the fire were told to keep doors and windows of their homes closed as precaution against the smoke.
The wildfire has caused extensive damage to forests as well as the Corrimony nature reserve, with ground-nesting birds, including black grouse, losing their chicks or eggs.
Two firefighters who were injured while tackling the blaze have since been released from hospital.
The Fire Brigades Union urged government across the UK to invest more in fire services due to the rising risk of wildfires caused by climate change.
“This shows us the real dangers of the climate emergency. Wildfires, such as the ones we are seeing in Cannich at the moment, are on the rise year on year,” said general secretary Matt Wrack.
“All governments must heed this stark warning: the climate crisis is here now. We need urgent climate action to prevent loss of life, and that must also involve serious investment in our fire services.”