A firefighting farmer has called for caution over the potentially devastating use of heat lamps ahead of the spring lambing season.
Stewart Macpherson has been a farmer for more than 25 years – and since 2010, the dad-of-three has helped keep his community safe as a retained firefighter at Foyers, on the banks of Loch Ness.
The Macphersons are currently preparing to welcome thousands of new-born lambs to the family-run Dell Farm in Whitebridge, near Inverness – and Stewart has warned against the increased use of heat sources in sheds and barns.
“All across the country, especially at this time of year, firefighters respond to fires at farms caused by heat lamps or fan heaters,” explained Stewart, 48.
“Last year, there was a terrible fire that was caused by an unwell calf knocking over a lamp in a barn full of combustible hay bales.
“I’ve been a farmer for a long time, and I am well aware of the critical importance of using a heat sources to warm a new-born lamb to boost its chance of survival.
“Farmers and crofters will continue to use these devices, that’s not debatable – but I would urge caution, and for anyone using these heat sources to take simple but hugely effective measures to reduce the risk of fire.
“For example, you should always ensure any heat sources is secured, and is kept away from flammable material. I also always keep a fire extinguisher nearby.”
There are over 9,000 farms in Scotland, and the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) regularly responds to a host of farm-related incidents, from fires to flooding to large animal rescue.
Stewart added: “Farms are especially high-risk of fire, in terms of fuel stores and volumes of combustible materials such as hay and straw.
“The consequences can be tragic, with animals killed, and fire can have a devastating impact on your livelihood.”
The SFRS has already been working in close partnership with rural communities to ensure general safety.
In 2016, SFRS launched the Rural Risk Project (RRP) in the Highlands, South Lanarkshire and Dumfries and Galloway in partnership with the National Farmers Union (NFU) and Police Scotland.
The RRP is a secure database that exists to ensure local firefighters are aware of any risks if called to an emergency at a farm – and Stewart (pictured below with Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing) has urged all farmers and crofters to sign up.
He said: “This data is absolutely vital for the safety of firefighters first and foremost, but could also be crucial in terms of reducing any loss or damage at your farm in the event of emergency.”
Rab Middlemiss is the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service’s Local Senior Officer for the Highlands.
He said: “The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service exists to save lives, and we will always look to work with partners to ensure the safety of our communities.
“The Rural Risk Project is a dynamic partnership, and is another key example of how local communities can play a vital role to improve public and firefighter safety.
“As retained firefighter, Stewart Macpherson is a pillar of the community and has been instrumental in building this innovative and potentially life-saving partnership all across the Highlands.
“I would urge all farmers and crofters to complete our questionnaire to help ensure our firefighters and control staff are fully prepared with vital information about your land and property.”
You can find more information on the Rural Risk Project here: /your-safety/farm-safety.aspx