Wildfire worries over unattended fires

A local doctor is criticising both East Dunbartonshire Council and the police for failing to deal with his claims relating to fire safety.

St Flannans Church and wooded area where burning is taking place near to the Forth and Clyde Canal towpath.
St Flannans Church and wooded area where burning is taking place near to the Forth and Clyde Canal towpath.

Dr Alan McManus was first alerted to the problem while walking his dog on the southern towpath of the Forth and Clyde Canal.

He noticed that many mature trees had been chopped down, and that a number of bonfires had been lit to dispose of the remnants.

The man, who Dr McManus approached, was using a chainsaw and claimed he was the owner of the land.

However, Alan disputes this and counter claimed telling the individual that the footpath actually crosses land owned by both the council and the Archdiocese of Glasgow, who have responsibility for the nearby St Flannans Church.

Dr McManus has had to call Scottish Fire and Rescue Service on several occassions now to extinguish fires which had been left unattended.

He said: “My calls to Police Scotland over the issue were met with the response that as no criminal act was taking place they could do nothing, but my main concerns is for public safety. A local resident I’ve spoken with, who works as a country ranger, has claimed the burning is unsafe as it appears no health and safety assessment has been carried out.

“Full-grown trees have been reduced to stumps by the canal. It’s wanton destruction and heartbreaking.

“The watch commander who attended most recently told me ‘under certain conditions this would cause a wildfire. He also said it contravenes SEPA Fire Safety regulations and the Clean Air Act with the smoke causing a nuisance’.”

Alan maintains that the huge plumes of smoke created are a direct risk to the elderly residents at Bield Housing next door, as well as those living in the new flats adjacent to St Flannans Church.

The Gazette contacted the council, fire service, police and the church for comment. A Police Scotland spokesperson said: “We have been contacted by a member of the public in connection with this matter. Enquiries are ongoing to establish if any crime has taken place.”

Our own investigations have revealed that the area of land in question may actually be a Scheduled Monument (due to the Antonine Wall). This means that potentially any works would need to be agreed in advance.

A spokesperson for Historic Environment Scotland said: “We are aware of reports of tree felling and burning within or adjacent to the Antonine Wall, a scheduled monument and World Heritage Site. Whilst tree felling on a scheduled monument does not always require scheduled monument consent, it is an offence to damage a scheduled monument through felling or other operations. We are currently undertaking actions in line with our Enforcement Policy to establish whether damage has occurred.”

Thomas Glen, the council’s Depute Chief Executive - Place, Neighbourhood and Corporate Assets, said: “The council has been contacted by a member of the public as regards this area of land. We are currently investigating, while liaising with colleagues at Police Scotland and Scottish Fire & Rescue.”