Wildfires in the Scottish Highlands, Northern Ireland and other areas in the U.K. have been burning since last weekend. Some have been controlled or put out altogether, but others continue to crop up in the critically dry moors and mountainsides. The past month has seen less than a quarter of the rainfall normal for the season, and persistent winds are exacerbating the situation.
Official sources are saying that most of the thousands of wildfires have been caused by criminally careless behaviour on the part of campers and trekkers, and in some cases the possibility of arson is being investigated. The damage to property already amounts to millions of pounds, but the impact on the environment could be even more devastating.
In Scotland, the RSPB is deeply concerned about the consequences to ground-nesting birds and their habitat. The Highland and Islands are long established breeding and nesting grounds for many birds ,
including some rare and endangered species, and this time of year is when they are most vulnerable.
Larger mammals and other birds can escape these fires, but birds that nest on the ground, such as the lapwing and greenshank, can’t move their nests or their babies to safety. In addition, the extremely dry condition of the soil means that fires burn hotter and scorch the soil as well as destroying vegetation and insects that the birds depend on for food.
Many of the fires have broken out in conservation and scenic areas, often in terrain that is inaccessible to fire-fighters on the ground. In Scotland and Ireland, helicopters have been brought in to drop water on the flames, but officials say it will take significant rainfall to prevent new fires starting up or ‘old’ ones spreading. In Ireland, some rain has been falling since Wednesday, but the Met predicts that it won’t reach Scotland and the rest of the U.K. until Friday or Saturday.
It is believed that human carelessness is the main cause of these devastating wildfires. Government and local officials are urging everyone to be aware of the danger and take every precaution when visiting any of Nature’s habitats. The potential damage due to irresponsible behaviour is incalculable.