THE fire service has issued its first wildfire warning of the year, with the risk rated “extreme” and “very high” on Friday and into the weekend.

The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) said the increased risk is due to the weather pattern over the next few days, dominated by low pressure, warm air to the south, cold air to the north and low humidity in the south west.

Two warnings have been put in place until Saturday, with south west Scotland having a risk rating of “extreme” and central east Scotland at “very high” risk.

SFRS said that due to the time of year, a large amount of dead grass and heather is left over from last year which can dry out quickly due to a combination of frost, low relative humidity, sunshine and wind, and when ignited it acts as fuel which can spread wildfires over a wide area.

The fire service has recently launched a new prevention campaign called Care For Your Countryside.

John Harvey, an SFRS station commander, said: “Over the next few days while this wildfire warning is in place, we urge people to act safely and responsibly in the countryside.

“Wildfires have devastating effects on our countryside and are extremely damaging to the environment, wildlife and nearby communities.

“With dry, winter conditions this weekend, wildfires could burn and spread with very high intensity in high-risk areas.

“Therefore, we are asking people to act responsibly when enjoying the outdoors, dispose of cigarettes carefully and please think twice before using anything involving a naked flame.”

SFRS said many wildfires are started deliberately or are due to careless, reckless or irresponsible behaviour, and the risk is said to peak during early spring.

People who live, work or are visiting rural areas in particular are being urged to exercise the utmost caution to avoid fires breaking out.