September 22, 2023

Forest fire in Cannich causes extensive damage to Corrimony nature reserve

Aerial view of wildfire

An aerial view of the wildfire from earlier this week

A bushfire that has been raging in the Highlands since Saturday has wreaked havoc on a nature reserve, according to RSPB Scotland.

The charity said many ground-nesting birds, including grouse, had lost chicks or eggs in the incident near Cannich, south of Inverness.

Hundreds of native trees planted to regenerate habitat in RSPB’s Corrimony Reserve have also been destroyed.

Smoke from the fire was detected by NASA satellites earlier this week.

The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) was first called to the blaze just before 1pm on Sunday.

It was brought under control on Wednesday, but more than 20 firefighters remain on site to treat “deep-seated hot spots”.


RSPB Scotland said wildlife and habitat had been lost to the fire

RSPB Scotland said it has yet to fully assess the impact of the fire on wildlife.

The reserve’s Simon McLaughlin said he found fast-moving species such as spiders and lizards had survived.

But others, including frogs, had been found dead.

RSPB Scotland thanked the dozens of firefighters and farm workers involved in extinguishing the flames.

The charity said: “The damage to Corrimony has been massive and made even more devastating by the impact on many ground-nesting birds who have lost their chicks and eggs.”

Earlier this week, NASA satellite images showed smoke from the wildfire drifting 12 miles west toward Loch Ness.

People living near the fire were told to keep windows and doors of their homes closed as a precaution against the smoke.


The forest fire has been raging for several days

The most recent satellite data available suggests that the affected area could be smaller than previously feared.

SFRS had estimated that flames had burned through an 80 square kilometer area of ​​heathland and woodland, making it the largest bushfire in the UK.

The agency said it was now estimated at 15 square kilometers.

Wildfire analysts said the latest available satellite imagery suggested the “monumental” firefighting effort contained the incident.

SFRS Group Commander Niall MacLennan said: “This has been a challenging large-scale fire, which has undoubtedly had an impact on the rural community here.

“Our crews, who have been working tirelessly since Sunday to deal with this wildfire, will remain on site until it is made safe.”

Forest fire at CannichForest fire at Cannich

Efforts to control the spread of the fire were praised

At the height of the incident earlier this week, SFRS had nine devices and their crew on site. They were aided by farm labourers, including game wardens, RSPB personnel and water bombing by helicopters.

Two firefighters were injured during the operation after their off-road vehicle flipped over. They were flown to hospital and discharged after treatment.

Speaking to the Scottish Parliament, Community Security Minister Siobhian Brown said bushfires are a threat to life and the environment.

She said: “I thank all the firefighters and others who are tackling this wildfire.

“The weather and conditions at this time of year lend themselves to fires starting easily and spreading quickly.

“The tiniest fire can spread and devastate entire communities, hills, livestock, farmland, wildlife, protected land and areas of special interest.”

Wildfire aftermath

The bushfire affected a large area of ​​land near Cannich

In a tweet, wildfire analyst Dr Thomas Smith, an associate professor at the London School of Economics, described a “monumental” effort to bring the blaze under control.

Analysis of the latest available satellite images by Dr Smith and others suggested that the damage covered a smaller area than previously thought.

Michael Bruce, of Aberdeenshire-based Firebreak Services Ltd, said a satellite used by the European Forest Fire Information System and the EU’s Copernicus program indicated 2,426 acres (982 ha) were involved.

But he added that it could grow to 2,718 acres (1,100 ha) because of hot spots outside the main wildfire area.

Mr Bruce said: “It was a hugely successful joint effort between SFRS and local landowners who managed to contain the fire to this size.

“It is always difficult to determine the size of the fire quickly, with smoke and spread, and the people on site are focused on fighting the fire.”

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