A "very high" risk of wildfire remains in place across large parts of Scotland, the country’s fire and rescue service has warned.

With warm, dry weather being forecast for the weekend, people venturing into the countryside as public lockdown restrictions are eased, have been urged to exercise extreme caution.

The warning, from Bruce Farquharson, Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) Area Commander, comes after major blazes raged across the Kilpatrick Hills near Clydebank, the New Galloway forest in Dumfries and Galloway, and in Wester Ross during a dry period in April.

Mr Farquharson said the "very high" wildfire warning – released in conjunction with the Scottish Wildfire Forum (SWF) – remains in place until Monday.

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Firefighters fear a spate of outbreaks could place unnecessary pressure on the emergency services as they already work to support partners and protect the public amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Mr Farquharson, who is also chair of the SWF, said: “While we appreciate that many people will seek to enjoy the outdoors during this spell of good weather this weekend, we urge everyone to make sure that they don’t increase the chance of wildfire.

“We have had very little rain over the past two months, and a large volume of dead, bone-dry vegetation remains left over from last year – which essentially acts as a fuel for fire.

“As a result, there are currently vast areas of countryside all over the country that is tinder dry and vulnerable, and has all of the ingredients for fire to take hold and spread.

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“We are asking the public to exercise extreme caution and think twice before using anything involving a naked flame, such as disposable barbecues or campfires.”

Wildfires can start by the careless disposal of barbecues or campfires left unattended.

They then have the potential to burn for days and devastate vast areas of land and wildlife; threaten the welfare of nearby communities; and place a strain on the emergency services.

Wildfires across the country drew upon significant fire and rescue resources across several days this spring.

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Mr Farquharson added: “We would always stress the importance of being vigilant in areas of countryside, but right now we are in a unique and testing period for all emergency services.

“Large wildfires require huge resources to bring under control, and this has the potential to then impact on our entire structure across Scotland.

“We will always do our utmost to protect our communities, and to save life and property from harm at all times – but we also need the public to help us.

“Human behaviour can significantly lower the chance of a wildfire starting, so it is crucial that people act safely and responsibly in rural environments, and always follow the Scottish Outdoor Access Code.”

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