Electricity pole sparks 'scary' wildfire which spread for five miles

Locals raised the alarm on Sunday afternoon after smoke was visible across the village of Assynt.

A “scary” wildfire stretched up to five miles in the Highlands after part of an electricity pole was damaged.

Fire crews sent three appliances to reports of an uncontrolled blaze in Glencanisp, Assynt near Lochinver in the Highlands at around 12.30pm on Sunday, January 28.

Locals alerted authorities to the fire out in the open after seeing smoke amid high temperatures and strong winds of around 60 to 70mph in the region.

The fire, believed to have stretched to five miles in total and covering around 100 acres, accelerated at “walking pace” due to weather conditions.

The fire encapsulated land owned only by the Assynt Foundation, a community owned landholding, who bought out the Glencanisp and Drumrunie Estates in 2005.

Emergency services rushed to the scene of the wildfire that moved at ‘walking pace’. Photo: The Assynt Foundation.

No damage to property was reported and no one was injured as a result of the fire.

Lewis MacAskill, chairperson of the Assynt Foundation, says the response from locals and emergency services to a fire like never before was vital.

He told STV News: “The conditions were highly unusual, it was 18C here yesterday and the wind was gusting between 60 and 70miles per hour. And it’s still January – it was really unusual.

“We believe the high winds managed to rip off a bracket from an electricity pole, the cable fell to the ground and must have caused a shortage or a spark as the cause of the fire.

“A local person saw the smoke and called the fire brigade straight away before contacting everyone else including us.

“The fire, with the high wind, took off really quickly and within about 15 or 20 minutes it was well under way and was highly visible to everyone in the locale.

“It burned between half a mile and mile wide and it probably covered about five miles. It managed to do all of that in under three hours.

“It was moving just short of walking pace, that was the scary bit.

Locals raised the alarm on Sunday afternoon after seeing smoke. Photo: The Assynt Foundation/Facebook.

“We’ve seen a few fires over the years but not moving that quickly.”

Mr MacAskill says it was unusual for a blaze to break out in winter but that the fire can be put down to a “freak accident”.

He added: “In a remote, isolated part of Scotland like us it is really important that people respond quickly to things like this.

“Emergency services are stretched at best and they can take a while to physically reach here.

“The Assynt Foundation really appreciated the quick response from locals and emergency services.

“We are ready for fires in the area, it’s part and parcel of being in a rural setting but not at this time of year – that is what caught everyone by surprise.

“In spring and summer, that’s the highest risk of fire season but not in the winter – that’s what everyone was taken aback with.

“It was a freak accident, a combination of the power line hitting the ground, temperatures and winds, with those three or four factors combined there was no one to blame.

“Thanks to the quick response from everyone involved we were able to mobilise very quickly and assess the situation.”

The fire was described as a ‘freak accident’ and no damage was done to property. Photo: The Assynt Foundation.

The Assynt Foundation say an ongoing habitat assessment will take place over the next number of years to fully understand the effects of fires of this nature.

A Scottish Fire and Rescue Service spokesperson said: “We were alerted at 12.30pm on Sunday, January 28 to reports of a fire in the open near to Glencanisp, Assynt in Sutherland.

“Operations Control mobilised three appliances to the scene and firefighters worked to extinguish a grass fire approximately one mile in length.

“Crews left the scene around 5pm after ensuring the area was made safe and there were no reported casualties.” 

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