On Tuesday evening a heath fire blazed a swathe through Glen Nevis, damaging a large area of young native woodland. Though the popular crags are unaffected, there are suggestions that it may have been arson.
The fire started close to 'Leg Breaker' on the River Nevis, before spreading up the flank of Sgurr a'Mhaim and along the glen floor towards the lower falls. The affected area is on the opposite side of the river from the main climbing crags at Polldubh.
Local climbers from the Polldubh Club raised the alarm, but by the time the fire service arrived on the scene the fire had taken hold in the tinder-dry vegetation and about 40 hectares were burning. Fire crews from Fort William, Spean Bridge, Kinlochleven and Fort Augustus spent several hours tackling the blaze, and were joined by estate workers.
Police were also present, according to the local press, taking a statement from a climber who'd witnessed two young men get into a car and drive away around the time that the first smoke began to be seen. It's not clear whether they deliberately started the fire, or were in fact heading off to get help. Or perhaps they weren't involved at all?
The total damage runs to roughly 210 hectares of heath and young trees. According to landowners British Alcan the estimated cost of the damage is £250,000.
This is the latest in a series of serious heath fires to have hit the Highlands and Islands as the unusually dry spell continues. In Lochaber, areas above Corpach and in Glenfinnan, Ardnamurchan and Arisaig have all been affected. Wildfires have also sprung up on Skye, Mull and elsewhere. Last week the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service called for an immediate halt to muirburning in the region, and asked the public to take extra care, after attending almost 200 wildfire incidents in the space of a week.
'At present the land and weather conditions still pose a high risk of fire and I would urge visitors and local communities that when venturing into the countryside to be aware of outdoor fire safety' said Robert Scott, Assistant Chief Officer for the North Service Delivery Area last week.
'Members of the public should take care not to use camp fires, barbeques or carelessly discard cigarettes, glass bottles etc which can result in significant wildfires.'
The weather forecast suggests a return to more seasonal dampness from this weekend.
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