A retained firefighter denied starting three wildfires when he appeared at a Highland court today.
The offences were allegedly committed just weeks after David Mackay had been honoured at a fire service awards ceremony at which he was presented with a long-service medal.
One of the fires he is accused of setting, threatened to engulf a Lochaber village.
The fire on Carnoch Estate at Strontian, destroyed around 600 acres of mixed woodland causing damage believed to be in the region of £750,000.
Another wildfire destroyed grassland at Bellsgrove Mine, Strontian, which was used as common grazings.
And a third, at Glen Tarbet in Ardgour, could be seen across Loch Linnhe from Fort William.
Mackay, pleaded not guilty at Fort William Sheriff Court today to wilfully setting fire to an area of forest at Carnoch Electricity Sub Station on the A861 at Strontian on March 27 last year and causing a fire which destroyed the forest.
The 40-year-old, of 6 Dal nan Each, Strontian, Acharacle, also denied wilfully setting fire to and burning an area of grassland at Bellsgrove Mine, Strontian, on April 1.
And he pleaded not guilty to wilfully starting a fire in an area of forest at the cattle grid on the A861 at Glen Tarbet, which took hold destroying forest and fencing on April 1.
He also faces alternative charges of “culpably and recklessly” starting the fires.
Mackay, who is a piper and well-known musician in the area, now works for Ferguson Transport.
Sheriff Richard Davidson continued the case to a sheriff and jury trial at the Fort William court on August 18 and he continued Mackay’s bail to that date.
Firefighters battled to control the wildfire in Strontian of March 27 as flames encroached on the village, threatening a care home and other residential properties.
At its peak, it was two miles wide, and the emergency services were considering evacuating properties in the area.
The other fire at Strontian caused about two acres of heathland to burn.
The incidents happened during a 10-day period of very dry conditions when more than 200 wildfires were reported in the Highlands and islands and fire teams were described as being “stretched to the limit”.