Local News for Monday 5th March 2018

Barra fire shows burning risk – fire service
A grass fire which ran out of control in Barra at the weekend shows the risk of burning in the current conditions, according to Western Isles fire officers. Fire crews from Castlebay and Barra airport were called out to the west side of Barra on Saturday afternoon, when a number of fires threatened the housing scheme at Cuithir. CalMac re-scheduled a ferry from Eriskay to bring a large fire appliance from Lochboisdale, together with fire crews and Coastguard volunteers from Griminish and Lochboisdale, to join Barra fire crews, coastguard and RNLI volunteers and members of the public. Scores of people worked together to bring the fire under control, but the flames continued to burn through the night, fanned by strong easterly winds. Crews were stood down at 2am on Sunday, but after only a few hours rest at the Castlebay Hotel, were called again at 5am as the blaze flared up in heather moors on Heaval, continuing to burn through Sunday. By this morning there were just a few smouldering patches under observation by fire crews.

The fire is believed to have started as part of the traditional muirburn, which clears dead grass and heather to improve grazing. Muirburn season runs from October to April 15th, but this winter’s unusual conditions have added to the risks. Steve Oliver, station manager at Stornoway fire station said: “People don’t realise how dry everywhere is now, you could be standing in water but the wind has dried the dead grasses and with the high wind speeds of winter, anything that burns is likely to get out of hand more quickly than you think.” One witness said: “If it wasn’t for the quick reaction of the local services it could have been a lot worse than it was. Whoever started this fire should be ashamed of themselves, especially on how close it came to the scheme, putting children, adults and pensioners at risk.”
Flights return – Flybe leaves Glasgow route
After last week’s weather chaos on the mainland, flights began to return to normal at the weekend, with Loganair’s service to Stornoway one of the first to leave the ground at Glasgow airport. Loganair said they had ‘all hands on deck” on Friday morning to clear feet of snow from runways, with managing director Jonathan Hinkles and director of operations Maurice Boyle among those taking to the tarmac with shovels in preparation for the LM470 Loganair service to Stornoway - airborne at 10.28am. The Loganair flight was the first link to the Western Isles from the central belt since Wednesday. Meanwhile Flybe faced criticism for using weather as an excuse, after cancelling flights between Stornoway and Glasgow two days before the snow arrived, giving staff sickness and shortage of cabin crew as reasons for cancelling all flights last Monday and Tuesday, and over the weekend. The airline has ceased their scheduled flights between the two airports as from today.
An Lanntair reception remodel
Arts centre An Lanntair has apologised for disruption this week, as the final stages of their remodelled entrance area mean closure of the box office and reception. The doors and shop/reception area are due to re-open on Saturday, so there will be revised opening hours this week and some closed periods. The café and bar are open from 10am to 6pm Monday to Wednesday, although with no kitchen facilities, and the whole building will close on Thursday and Friday, to re-open completely from 10am on Saturday.