12 Mar 2021

Promoting wildfire resilience in our forests and woodlands

With spring on the way, we are moving into the period when risk of wildfires is generally highest.

Whilst most might be small incidents, hot, dry and windy weather, and the build up of dead vegetation following winter, can easily increase the spread of fire.

Although wildfires in forests and woodlands make up a relatively small proportion of all wildfire incidents, their impacts can be large, costly to society and extremely dangerous.


The impacts of wildfires

As well as potentially endangering lives and biodiversity, wildfire can also damage property and national infrastructure like transport networks and power lines.

Economic impacts include losses to forestry businesses and the wood processing sector, as well as businesses linked with forestry, such as tourism or recreation enterprises.

A changing climate

While the risk level is predicted to remain relatively low in Scotland, there are a number of factors that could have an impact on this, such as rising summer temperatures and increased risk of extreme drought events.

Increasing growth of vegetation during warmer and wetter winters could create higher fuel loads.

Other events such as pest and disease outbreaks and windthrow have the potential to increase fuel loads in the form of deadwood.


How can you reduce the risk?

Woodland owners can: 

  • Prioritise high risk areas, manage vegetation to reduce fuel loads e.g. swipe rides and road edges.
  • Incorporate fire breaks into forest design, making use of natural features such as water courses.
  • Increase structural diversity by planting a range of species and breaking up single age stands.
  • Ensure good access for firefighting, e.g. avoid creating dead end roads or install turning points.
  • Keep an up to date fire plan with ponds and water sources shown on maps and share a copy with Scottish Fire and Rescue Service.

 Useful information sources

Scottish Fire and Rescue Service: www.firescotland.gov.uk
Forestry Commission Practice Guide : Building wildfire resilience into forest management planning
FISA Guide: Firefighting
Scottish Wildfire Forum www.scottishwildfireforum.co.uk