Blaze risk sparks vow to work closely
LOGGERS and power network operators have vowed to work more closely over future timber operations after a wind-blown tree struck electricity lines and sparked a wild fire near Loch Morlich.
Some two hectares of land were affected by the fire on Saturday, which took 42 firefighters almost a day to fully extinguish. At its height the blaze, which began at around 11.30am, involved crews from Aviemore, Carrbridge, Kingussie, Newtonmore, Grantown, Balintore and Tomintoul.
The tree which struck the line had stood next to others that had just been felled by contractors working for Forest Enterprise Scotland (FES). The removal of its neighbours left it more exposed to the weather, and high winds subsequently blew it over into the power lines.
Plans had been agreed to power down the line to enable loggers to remove trees closest to the cables, but Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks (SSEN) said this "planned outage" had not been expected earlier than mid-March and that none were planned for last weekend. It said that given the risk of further line damage from other "at risk" trees, it has now brought that date forward to tomorrow "to allow the remaining harvesting works to take place safely".
It added: "We continue to work closely with third-party contractors and the Forestry Commission to ensure tree harvesting in proximity to our network infrastructure is planned and carried out safely at all times."
Forestry Commission Scotland confirmed that a request for a power outage had been put in to SSE "but it appears that the tree was blown down before this could be put into effect".
It said that FES staff "have been monitoring the site since the fire service left and are liaising with SSE regarding the felling of other trees in the area adjacent to this particular section of the power line".
Rothiemurchus Estate, which was one of three customers affected by Saturday's power loss, said it was "one of the most dangerous times of the year" for wildfires and that "everyone is being careful" about the risk.