A CAMPAIGN has been launched to reduce the risk of wildfire as spring arrives.

Senior officers at the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) are urging local residents to take care when exploring the great outdoors and have stressed that wildfires can be devastating for rural areas and those living within these communities.

According to the SFRS, many wildfires are started deliberately or are due to “careless, reckless or irresponsible behaviour” and that risk peaks during early spring.

The new prevention campaign, dubbed Care for your Countryside, is being launched in response to this.

Deputy Assistant Chief Officer Bruce Farquharson, SFRS wildfire lead, said: “It is crucial that people act safely and responsibly in rural environments to prevent a fire from spreading out of control.

“Wildfires in particular are extremely dangerous and pose a major threat to rural communities, wildlife and areas of countryside. Wildfires can spread rapidly and it’s vital that people never start a fire during periods of high wildfire danger.

“We would always recommend not having a fire at all but we do recognise there are occasions where people will still want to have one.

“It is important that people understand the impact of deliberate or careless fire-setting. Even with the best intentions there is still a risk that a fire can spread.

“If you light a camp fire, for example, please be aware of conditions such as high winds, high temperatures and low humidity and always take steps to make sure your camp fire is fully extinguished before you leave.”

The campaign stresses that wildfires can be damaging to the environment and have the potential to burn for days, placing a drain on the emergency services’ resources.

Mr Farquharson also urged smokers to take particular care when enjoying the  countryside.

He added: “You should ensure items such as cigarettes are disposed of safely and responsibly.

“You can care for your countryside by taking simple steps to act safely and responsibly in rural environments and always following the Scottish Outdoor Access Code.”

For more information, visit www.firescotland.gov.uk/your-safety/outdoors/wildfires.