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Last Updated:  Sunday, 23 February, 2003, 18:08 GMT
Highland blazes test fire brigade
Brush fire
The fire brigade dealt with more than 80 blazes

Firefighters have been struggling to deal with more than 80 blazes in the Highland countryside over the weekend.

The clear weather of the past few days has stretched local crews to the limit.

Many of the fires were started deliberately and fire chiefs are appealing to people to show sense.

One of the most serious blazes was close to Glenfinnan Viaduct, near Fort William, which is being used as a location for the new Harry Potter film.

Tackle the blazes

The viaduct will feature in The Prisoner of Azkaban, the latest film based on the adventures of novelist J K Rowling's teenage wizard.

The control room of Highland and Islands Fire Brigade received 813 calls in a 24-hour period at the weekend.

They called in a helicopter to help put out the most serious fires at the Glenfinnan viaduct and Auchtertyre.

More than 300 firefighters have been called out to tackle the blazes.

Many are part time and have had to leave their families and day jobs.

Harry Potter
The new Harry Potter movie was being filmed

Some of the blazes were started by vandals but many were controlled burnings that got out of hand in the dry conditions.

The fire brigade is appealing for people to take great care not to start any more blazes.

Calum Munro, divisional officer with Highland and Islands Fire Brigade:

"It has been incredibly difficult.

"We've really had five to six days now of quite intense activity.

"The same crews are having to attend time and time again to the same fires and they've taken a pounding."

Lighting fires

Mr Munro said that there are 140 fire stations covering a brigade area which is one sixth of the land mass of Britain.

While he can call on 1,540 personnel in the brigade, just over 120 earn their living as firefighters.

Mr Munro said that several of the fires had been started deliberately.

"That is a tragedy. That people are so ill or misguided that they get pleasure from lighting fires is a tragedy.

"The outcome of a deliberately lit fire is totally unpredictable.

"In terms of youth vandalism we have identified areas where it is particularly prevalent and we have worked with the police and education authorities to try and control this."

He also appealed for people responsible for land management to think very carefully about muir burning.



Potter breaks its own UK record
26 Nov 02 |  Entertainment
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24 Nov 02 |  Scotland

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