The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) is spearheading a new multi-angled drive to combat wildfires across Scotland.
SFRS Assistant Chief Officer Robert Scott is Chair of the Scottish Wildfire Forum (SWFF) and under his leadership he has reformed and re-energised the forum, ensuring a wide range of partners are involved and empowered.
ACO Scott, who is also the director of service delivery for the north (the area mostly affected by wildfires last year), last week appointed a new, full-time senior manager who will be responsible for looking into all aspects of wildfire management.
Wildfires placed significant strain on SFRS resources last year and Mr Scott hopes that this new approach to wildfire management will raise awareness, encourage public responsibility, improve firefighter safety and reduce demand on SFRS resources during wildfire season.
Last year the SWFF launched the UK’s only Wildfire Operational Guidance Manual, which was commissioned by the Scottish Government.
Mr Scott said: “In addition to the launch of the guidance manual we have committed significant resources to training a number of senior officers to an advanced level to ensure we have subject matter experts available across the country to attend and control wildfire incidents.
“We have trained over 100 supervisory managers based in fire stations most likely to attend these types of incidents to ensure they do so safely and to maximum effect.”
The SWFF has also formed a working group made up of senior fire officers from various departments.
He said: “We want to ensure they consider all aspects of wildfire management from prevention, to training, to fire tactics and that we do so across the entire country.
“Just last week we appointed a senior manager, Group Manager Garry Burnett, who will be based in Aberdeen and work on wildfire management issues on a full time basis.”
Group Manager Garry Burnett said: “I am very much looking forward to managing the Wildfire Project and effectively supporting the ACO to deliver national wildfire objectives and improvements.
“For me, personally, I am delighted to be returning to the wildfire environment nearly 10 years after supporting the delivery of the first ever Scottish Wildfire Forum back in 2005.
“I am keen to strengthen relationships with key stakeholders to firstly deliver preventative measures implemented to reduce the impact of extensive wildfire both financially and environmentally. I am also highly focused to ensure improved development of our firefighters and incident managers benefiting firefighter safety when tackling wildfire.
“The full implementation of the Scottish Government’s Operational Guidance will be key to delivering that improved operational response.”
The SWFF has been extremely pro-active, forming partnerships with colleagues in England, Wales and Northern Island to ensure members can share experiences, tactics and training opportunities.
ACO Scott added: “This type of investment and partnership working will raise awareness of the issues around wildfires, encourage people to act responsibly in and around the countryside, lead to improved safety for firefighters and reduce the burden on the service and on partner agencies.”
Community Safety Minister Roseanna Cunningham commented: “Wildfires can have a truly devastating impact on communities, agriculture and environment across the country, and particularly the north of Scotland.
“The Wildfire Operational Guidance has provided Fire and Rescue Services with an invaluable source of information on how to tackle the behaviour, prevention and management of wildfire.
“Joint working between agencies and the training of officers to avoid and manage these incidents should also help protect communities, firefighters and our countryside from these dangerous and damaging fires.”
Drew McFarlane-Slack, Highland Regional Manager for Scottish Land and Estates, said: “We value the opportunity to work in partnership with the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service.
“Together we can pool our resources and experience in a bid to reduce the number of wildfires in Scotland, which have a damaging effect on our environment and communities.”
Information on wildfires is available on the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service website www.firescotland.gov.uk