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Friday, June 21, 2024

Fire Warning as Impacts of Cannich Blaze Still Being Felt One Year on

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One year on from when a wildfire ripped through woodland and burned for two weeks at Cannich, south of Inverness, Forestry and Land Scotland (FLS) is calling on the public to be fire aware as work continues to manage the charred forest.

FLS – along with its contractor – are harvesting timber from the worst affected area at Kerrow Forest.

The badly burnt trees are being harvested 20 years earlier than planned and will be processed and used for less valuable timber products.

As temperatures rise and fire warnings are issued across Scotland, the still visible devastation at Cannich is a sobering reminder of the environmental, economic and human impacts a wildfire can have.   

FLS North Region Assistant Operations Manager, Guy Muir inspects the timber damaged by the Cannich fire.

FLS North Region Assistant Operations Manager, Guy Muir, said:

“The fire has significantly impacted the quantity, quality and value of the timber.

“Trees would have been left to grow for 20 years longer and produced almost double the amount of timber with the potential to produce sawmill logs, fencing and slat material.

“This would have given a higher yield with a higher price for the crop.

“Instead of being used for higher value products, the damaged timber will now have to be used in a type of chipboard known as oriented strand board or OSB and biofuel.

“It is estimated that the reduction in quality, additional harvesting costs and weight loss mean we could be looking at a reduction in value by approximately 60%.

“Even trees that appear less affected by the fire won’t survive for long.

“The burnt soil beneath them has been drained of nutrients meaning these trees would not last another season before too becoming deadwood.”

The fire has also made working on the site more challenging and has caused safety issues for contractors.

West Fraser Harvesting and Wood Supply Manager Carol Davidson said:

“The ground has become unstable in some places, with the peat having burnt underground, this has resulted in some areas being very waterlogged and difficult for the machines to get into safely.

“The fire damage has also caused the trees to become brittle, which means that for the contractor that they are using more chains for cutting the trees, as these are blunting a lot more than they would on a regular site. 

“When the harvester is cutting the trees there is black dust coming from them, which is covering the machine in a layer of this – fortunately the machines have good air intake suppression system, so this is not getting into the cabs.” 

The scorched timber and earth across the commercial forest site, along with the scarring and damage to neighbouring land and wildlife is testament to how easily and quickly a wildfire can take hold and become a major problem.

It can also remain a problem many weeks after the initial fire is put out.

Mr Muir explained:

“We monitored the site for several weeks, but FLS staff and the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service still had to deal with flare ups months after the main fire.

“This summer, we hope by reflecting on the damage and impact of the fire at Cannich a year ago, more people take note and are extremely aware of the wildfire risk.

“If you are going for a walk or planning on doing some camping, be sensible and do not take any risks.

“Do not light campfires, do not smoke and think twice before using a camping stove.

“And if you really have to use a stove, make sure it is as stable as possible, is well away from any flammable material and is on a level and preferably fire resistant surface.”

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