The risk of wildfires in the south of Scotland remains 'very high', the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service has warned.

The message comes as lockdown restrictions are eased, meaning people can now meet family and friends outdoors.

People who may visit rural environments have been warned to be extremely cautious, as a wildfire warning remains in place until Monday 1 June.

A spokesperson from the service says after several weeks of dry weather conditions, Scotland’s countryside is 'vulnerable' to fires. They can be started by the 'careless' disposal of BBQs or campfires left unattended.

Just recently, dry conditions caused flames to spread across 4,000 acres of heather, scrub and forestry - in New Galloway Forest, in Dumfries and Galloway - which took days to extinguish.

Wildfires threaten the welfare of nearby communities, devastate wildlife and place a significant strain on the emergency services, SFRS say.

Wildfire in New Galloway, April 2020. Credit: SFRS

Area Commander Farquharson, who is also chair of the SWF, said: “While we appreciate that many people will seek to enjoy the outdoors during this spell of good weather this weekend, we urge everyone to make sure that they don’t increase the chance of wildfire.

“We have had very little rain over the past two months, and a large volume of dead, bone-dry vegetation remains left over from last year – which essentially acts as a fuel for fire.

“As a result, there are currently vast areas of countryside all over the country that is tinder dry and vulnerable, and has all of the ingredients for fire to take hold and spread.

“We are asking the public to exercise extreme caution and think twice before using anything involving a naked flame, such as disposable barbecues or campfires.”

Area Commander Farquharson continued: “We would always stress the importance of being vigilant in areas of countryside, but right now we are in a unique and testing period for all emergency services.

“Large wildfires require huge resources to bring under control, and this has the potential to then impact on our entire structure across Scotland.

“We will always do our utmost to protect our communities, and to save life and property from harm at all times – but we also need the public to help us.

“Human behaviour can significantly lower the chance of a wildfire starting, so it is crucial that people act safely and responsibly in rural environments, and always follow the Scottish Outdoor Access Code.”