Staff watched on in horror as an unattended BBQ fire destroyed acres of green space at Dunecht Estate, describing the frantic efforts to dowse the flames before the fire service arrived.
Hearing word that a blaze was tearing through woodland space at the Aberdeenshire beauty spot, staff at the estate witnessed the flames taking hold just before the fire service arrived at around 2.30pm on Tuesday.
Forestry manager Simon Williams said: “We were all running around with buckets of water trying our best to put the fire out, but it was too much.
“When the fire crews arrived they had quite the challenge to even get to the fire, with it being as secluded as it was they had to unspool the hoses at the engines and trek them through the woods.
“A specialised unit also arrived from Ballater who were able to drive right to the blaze.”
Fighting back the flames for over six hours, firefighters on the scene were able to trace the origin of the blaze back to a discarded BBQ.
As the smoke cleared, staff could see that almost 2.5 acres of woodland had been reduced to ashes.
And without the intervention of fire services, it would have continued into a neighbouring conservation area.
However, they were able to stop the rampaging blaze before it reached the conservation area and a nearby farm.
Dangerous diversion of resources
Advising that this didn’t need to happen at all and caused valuable resources to be diverted, Mr Williams added: “What if there had been a flat fire in Aberdeen, it isn’t just the danger of the woodland fire, it is the taking away of resources.
“To anyone thinking of cooking food on an open flame out in woodland areas, I’d say don’t. Leave that at home. By all means bring a picnic but don’t start fires as they can so easily get out of control.”
With a recent hot spell of weather hitting the north-east and the rest of the UK, the area which is filled with a mixture of old and young trees became a tinderbox.
A fire service spokeswoman added: “We were alerted at 2.37pm on Tuesday June 8 to reports of a fire in the open near to Dunecht Estate, Aberdeenshire.
“Operations Control mobilised three appliances and firefighters extinguished a fire covering approximately 120m x 50m.
“There were no reported casualties and crews left after ensuring the area was made safe.”
Three fire engines along with a specialist forest fire support unit attended following reports of the woodland fire at 2.40pm.
The team used backpack sprays, beaters, one main pump and one hose reel jet to bring the flames under control as well as utilising the forestry unit.
Estate condemn careless act
Estate managers were quick to condemn the careless act and have told people to “exercise your right to access” responsibly.
In a post on social media, which includes pictures of the emergency response, the estate said: “We would like to take this opportunity to remind everyone to please exercise your right of access responsibly and urge people to avoid using any type of fire (BBQ or campfire) in wild areas during these dry weather conditions and never light a fire in woodland, peatland areas or near buildings.
“Please dispose of litter and cigarettes responsibly, even if this means taking it home with you; call 999 and ask for the fire service if you see an out of control fire and follow the The Scottish Government’s Outdoor Access Code.
“If you have any information regarding this incident, please contact the estates office.
“Many thanks to the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service, our staff and the local farmers who attended.”