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Last Updated: Monday, 21 April, 2003, 21:21 GMT 22:21 UK
Two forest fires still burning
Helicopter tackles forest fire
Helicopters in Ardnamurchan have been temporarily grounded
Firefighters in the Highlands are still battling to control forest fires despite the onset of wetter conditions around most of Scotland.

Parts of the Ardnamurchan peninsula on the west coast are still alight despite the efforts of firefighters over the past five days.

About 15 firefighters, assisted by 20 Territorial Army personnel, have also been battling a fire on Barvas Moor on Lewis.

But heavy rainfall helped to douse several other fires in central Scotland and fire crews are now confident that they are under control.

The fires on the Ardnamurchan peninsula cover an area of more than 45 square kilometres (28 square miles).

Two helicopters, which were dousing the fire, were grounded on Tuesday after the pilots' flying hours finished.

Not enough rain

A third helicopter fitted with the equipment to water bomb fires was grounded by a mechanical problem.

There are no plans to evacuate the 15 or so properties in the hamlet of Branault, first in the blaze's path, or for the hamlet of Kilmory, just behind it.

Some 40 firefighters withdrew at nightfall after spending a fifth exhausting day tackling the fire.

A spokesman for the Highlands and Islands fire service said: "Light to moderate winds are behind the fire which is pushing it towards Branault and Kilmory.

In the last 24 hours we've had only 500 calls about fires so it's in decline at last, fingers crossed, but we're still really busy
Douglas McNichol, Strathclyde Fire Brigade
"There was a light rain today but it hasn't been enough to stop the fire. We need substantial amounts of rain."

The spokesman added that this Easter week had been one of the busiest for the brigade in 25 years.

On Lewis, freshening winds are spreading the flames on Barvas Moor towards nearby villages - although they are not at risk just yet, the Territorial Army has joined the operation.

During Monday, rainfall over southern and central areas helped to quell fires.

Firefighters were no longer at Cumbernauld where rain had fallen on Monday.

Hundreds of people were evacuated from the area on Sunday as a precautionary measure after a fire broke out in the nearby Palacerigg Country Park.

Strathclyde Fire Brigade also scaled down its fight against another fire across grassland at Harthilll.

'Busy weekend'

Meanwhile, damping down at the site of another fire at open ground in Newmilns, Ayrshire was continuing.

Douglas McNichol, an assistant divisional officer with the brigade, said: "This is the busiest weekend in years for us.

"At the beginning of the week we had 600 calls about grass fires in four hours. With around 500 firefighters on duty at any one time, it really stretched us.

"But in the last 24 hours we've had only 500 calls about fires so it's in decline at last, fingers crossed, but we're still really busy."

Elsewhere, Central Scotland fire brigade had brought an industrial fire at Laurieston, near Falkirk, under control.

Some 20 firefighters and three appliances were damping down at the free-standing single-storey warehouse following a 48-hour battle with the blaze.

The brigade extinguished another big fire on moorland at Brig O'Turk near Callendar, with the help of a helicopter, and at open ground in Slamannan, Falkirk.


WATCH AND LISTEN
Alexandra McKenzie
"The hillside looks as though it is coated with bright red, bubbling lava"



SEE ALSO:
Relief at cadets' fire rescue
20 Apr 03  |  Northern Ireland
Forest fires continue to rage
20 Apr 03  |  Scotland
Battle against fires continues
20 Apr 03  |  Wales


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