WATCH: James Black shares his thoughts on how outdoor users can enjoy Highland Perthshire responsibly (Photo Credit: Max Pixel)
For locals and tourists alike, the wilderness of Highland Perthshire is a beacon of temptation to spend a weekend camping. In doing so, however, The Scottish Fire & Rescue Service are urging campers to be mindful of their impact on the environment and potential safety risks.
Crew Commander of Kinloch Rannoch Community Fire Station, James Black, spoke of the approach his station takes on informing campers.
Crew Commander Black said:
“This all started back in 2019. We had a spate of fires and call-outs regarding camping. What had happened was there was a few fires got out of control. We got call-outs to fires that were way beyond the normal campfire – they were enormous bonfires that was going on.
“On the back of this, we did what we would call in the fire service would be a ‘hot strike’
“Imagine there was a fire in one house on the street – we’d go to – after the fire was out obviously – we’d go to all the houses in the street. We’d reassure people and offer them a home fire safety visit and a bit of safety advice.
“On the same note, on the back of these wildfires unfortunately caused by campers, we went out in the van and spoke to all the campers at that time after the last of these fires and what happened that first day was a bit of an eye-opener for all of us. We knew there was a lot more camping, we knew there was a lot more litter and we knew there was a lot more damage to the wildlife and the flora and fauna.
“We went out and one of the first sites, it was an abandoned site and there was rubbish everywhere there was a fire still burning and nobody there.
The impact of campers not only translated as rubbish left and potential damage to the landscape but also on the time spent by the Kinloch Rannoch Community fire station and others.
Mr Black spoke of an incident from the beginning of this year caused by campers which began to escalate, requiring immediate response:
“A camper had put out a metal disposable barbecue. He set it out but unfortunately it was on a bit of dry grass so as a result, the Loch shore took light.
“To respond, the Fire service sends out two fire engines, each with 6 people in them up to the top of Loch Rannoch.
“If you imagine the cost of that – two fire engines, twelve people – and if there had been a fire twenty miles in the opposite direction there would be no fire cover available, and they would have to come in from further afield and take longer to get there.
“It’s causing less strain on us to deal with it in this way before the problem arises.
Crew Commander Black recommends any visitor to Highland Perthshire spend 10 minutes reading and familiarising themselves with the Scottish Outdoor Access Code.
In relation to lighting fires outdoors, the code also warns of High-Risk conditions existing in Scotland currently.
The code states:
“Wherever possible, use a stove rather than light an open fire. If you do wish to light an open fire, keep it small, under control, and supervised – fires that get out of control can cause major damage, for which you might be liable.
“Never light an open fire during prolonged dry periods or in areas such as forests, woods, farmland or on peaty ground or near to buildings or in cultural heritage sites where damage can be easily caused. Heed all advice at times of high risk. Remove all traces of an open fire before you leave.
“At times of drought, work with the fire & rescue service to inform people of the high risks involved.”
The Kinloch Rannoch Community Fire Station is also asking that visitors take part in their ‘feedback portal’ for both positive feedback or suggestions for improvement. To take part, you can email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Crew Commander Black concluded:
“While we are ok with responsible fires, all wood is protected, standing, fallen, wet or dry, so we would like people to bring their own wood and preferably a stove to burn it in.
“Topic of the moment is water safety, we would like people to take extra care around water if you have a boat or a canoe please take a flotation device, and never go on to or in the water alone.
“Most people do understand how to behave but we’d rather be a carrot than a stick is the way I’d look at it. We’d rather inform and educate than bring in somebody to enforce.
“I don’t think that slapping fines helps anyone. The money you’re going to generate from the fine isn’t going to cover the court process and what’s the point in annoying and upsetting people that are possibly just doing something because they didn’t know any better? I’d rather just have a chat with folk and explain the way that we would expect them to behave and the things that we would want them to do and 99% of the time, people will take on that advice.”
For more information and to read the Scottish Outdoor Access Code, please visit: https://www.outdooraccess-scotland.scot/
The code is offered in a range of languages from: https://www.outdooraccess-scotland.scot/scottish-outdoor-access-code-other-languages and a range of spoken guide videos can be found on Nature Scot’s Youtube channel at: https://www.youtube.com/c/NatureScot