A Wester Ross community has been thanked by the National Trust after its quick-thinking and bravery prevented a fire from spiralling out of control.
Smoke was spotted billowing from Shieldaig Island on July 24 by people in nearby Shieldaig.
With no firefighters in sight, a call to arms was raised outside the local pub and shop.
It didn’t take long before dozens of people were climbing aboard boats and heading over to the island – armed with buckets, bins and whatever else they could get their hands on.
No one lives on Shieldaig Island but it is home to two nesting pairs of sea eagles.
They are a globally endangered species with fewer than 10,000 pairs left in the world.
Thankfully, a combination of locals, tourists and a fire crew from Kyle of Lochalsh managed to douse the flames without any people or eagles being harmed.
‘We’re extremely grateful’
The National Trust for Scotland owns Shieldaig Island.
William Boyd-Wallis, the trust’s operations manager for the north-west, sent a message of thanks to people in Shieldaig.
He said: “We’re extremely grateful to all involved in extinguishing the fire on Shieldaig Island.
“With the weather we’d had, the whole area was like a tinder box. It was really impressive how so many people got involved so quickly.
“As a habitat for many important species, including sea eagles, the impact could have been much worse.
“It’s a relief that no-one was injured and the fire was brought under control.
“We’d urge everyone who plans to visit these beautiful places to please, leave no trace and to never light fires in heather or amongst trees.”
No cause of the fire has so far been established.
Speculation on social media suggested the fire was started by people camping on the island.
But it is understood no evidence of this was found.
The fire broke out shortly after a high risk wildfire warning was issued for the Highlands.
One crew from Kyle of Lochalsh, around an hour’s drive from Shieldaig, was sent to the incident.
Derek Wilson, senior fire officer for the Highlands, said: “Public safety is paramount, and we would always encourage people to call 999 and wait for the arrival of firefighters to prevent putting themselves at risk.
“Nevertheless, I would like to thank the community for their support during a difficult incident at a challenging location.”
‘Who wants to be a hero?’
The response to the call to arms in Shieldaig was a great example of community spirit.
Locals and tourists mucked in together, piling onto boats and then creating a “human chain” to pass buckets of water towards the fire.
Andrew Burnett, 46, was visiting the area with his partner Jen Ang.
They were sitting outside the Shieldaig Bar and Coastal Kitchen when they heard a commotion.
He said: “A woman came running out of the pub carrying buckets and just shouted ‘Who wants to be a hero?’ There’s a fire on the island and we need bodies’.
“The next thing I know we’re on a boat going extremely fast. In normal circumstances, you’d pay good money for that kind of trip.”
Jon Ohlson, 29, manager of the Shieldaig Bar and Coastal Kitchen, was just finishing his shift when he heard about the fire.
He said: “We just grabbed all the empty mayonnaise tubs and emptied our bins. Anything we had that could take water.
“It was people from the community, it was people there on holiday, everyone just pulled together.”