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Fires sweep UK forests amid dry spell
Hundreds of firefighters tackle blazes in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland following driest April on record.
Last Modified: 04 May 2011 13:51
Fires have swept across the Scottish Highlands, including areas near the royal residence of Balmoral [PA]

Wildfires are ravaging swathes of countryside across the UK as unseasonably warm and dry weather has left vast areas parched and prone to blazes.

Hundreds of firefighters were tackling blazes in Scotland, England and Northern Ireland on Wednesday, and helicopters have been deployed to drop water over some of the worst affected regions.

The region has just experienced its hottest April on record and England and Wales saw only 21 per cent of the expected rainfall for that month.

Weather forecasters have also warned there is little chance of substantial rain before the end of the week.

The fires have led to several people being rescued from the Scottish Highlands, including a woman evacuated by lifeboat after her campsite was surrounded by flames.

Around 150 firefighters have been drafted in to tackle fires across 300 hectares of Swinley Forest, west of London, Britain's capital, which began on Monday, and flames have swept across moorlands in Lancashire, northwest England.

"We are hoping it rains, as the land is so dry," a Lancashire fire and rescue service spokesman told the Press Association, and told people to be vigilant when disposing of cigarettes.

Authorities have warned people to avoid areas affected by wildfires and for local residents to keep windows and doors shut.

In Northern Ireland, police are investigating reports of arson in the Mourne Mountains, while authorities are also tackling fires in the northwest of Ireland.

Strong winds have also hampered efforts to tackle wildfires, with authorities in the Highlands saying there was a continuing risk of more fires occuring.

Fire crews were also called to the royal estate Balmoral in Scotland, but no damage was reported.

Source:
Agencies
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