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5 Apr 2022

Video: The impact of a wildfire


I’m Alasdair Eckersall and I work at Ben Lomond for the National Trust for Scotland as the Property Manager, but a very important part of the job is the Ranger and Naturalist aspect of it as well.

Over the last 20 years or so we’ve been working with the tenant farming interests at Ben Lomond, towards achieving more of that balance between the grazing use and the place of nature on the hill.

In recent years that had included our woodland expansion through establishment of a 55-hectare new fenced exclosure on the lower west flank of Ptarmigan, which is going to really boost natural woodland presence.

The new fence that we put up to protect this exclosure is passed through by the Ptarmigan path, a really busy hill path. We get about 50,000 people a year up Ben Lomond and probably about a quarter of the visitor traffic passes along the Ptarmigan path.

One of the risks with that is that people can make mistakes and unfortunately, that’s what happened very recently.

Somebody on the path let a source of ignition, whatever it was, take hold in some of the very dry vegetation beside the path, and the consequence of that was we had a fire that built and spread rapidly, to eventually spread out and burn through just about the entire area of this new regeneration project.

Really unfortunate, pretty devastating... Yeah, we’re just still coming to terms with the damage and what the impacts of it will be.

It’s the smaller tree growth that’s really suffered. We’re seeing the two- or three-years’ worth of young trees still with buds on them just about to come out, but it’s the blackened base of these shoots that shows that we’re going to lose a lot of that two- or three-year-old growth.

Really sad to see was a lot of the small bugs and larvae that can’t crawl away from a fire, and we’ve seen so many signs of that sort of scale of life that’s been killed off and of course that's a real interruption to the life cycle on the hill. All those grubs: a lot of them would have been food for the bird life, and just the whole circle of life that takes place on the hill and a lot of that’s gone.

So at all times of year but especially in these really dry conditions, fires, cigarettes, any naked flames, barbecues are all a really extreme risk for areas of countryside and we just ask everyone if you’re coming out to National Trust for Scotland properties to take real care with all of these sources of ignition, and help us avoid really damaging fires such as we’ve had here at Ben Lomond.

A fire started at around 1pm on Tuesday 22nd March, which by nightfall had raged through almost the entire 50 hectare area of a two-year-old woodland regeneration project. After examining the aftermath, Alasdair takes us through the damage to the natural landscape and the life that calls it home.

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