A WILDFIRE at a former bio-weapon experiment site on a Scottish island could spread “any remnant contamination” of toxic chemicals over several kilometres, an expert has warned.

Pictures shared on Saturday evening show the huge blaze on Gruinard Island, otherwise known as “Anthrax Island”, located off the northwest coast of the country.

The area was requisitioned by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) during the Second World War - who since declared the area safe more than 30 years ago.

Government scientists conducted experimental biological weapons tests on sheep using anthrax cluster bombs in 1942.

For years the deadly bacteria contaminated the soil until it was classified as anthrax-free in 1990 after a campaign by a group known as the Dark Harvest commandos, who highlighted the contamination of the soil during the 1980s.


READ MORE: Wildfire spreads on uninhabted site known as 'Anthax Island'

Now, Dr Thomas Smith, an expert in wildfire emissions and associate professor at the London School of Economics, has warned it is possible any remanining contamination with either toxic chemicals or bacteria could spread through the huge plumes of smoke.

He told STV News: “Given the unique situation of this island regarding its history is that wildfires are known to ‘volatilise’ chemicals from the vegetation and soil such as those used in fertilisers.

“We know that the smoke from wildfires can contain toxic elements such as mercury and arsenic, especially when fires burn over contaminated sites or places with a naturally high toxicity.

“There is also evidence that wildfire smoke can carry microbes such as bacteria and fungal spores, sometimes over many kilometres.”

However a Ministry of Defence (MoD) spokesperson insisted: “Gruinard Island was decontaminated and deemed safe in 1987.

“As part of the sale of the island in 1990, the MoD agreed to undertake further work, if necessary, within 150 years of its sale.”

READ MORE: 40 years on, Dark Harvest campaign over 'anthrax island' is back in spotlight

Meanwhile, both the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency said the fire on the uninhabited island did not fall under their remit.

NHS Highland, however, confirmed the health board was looking into the incident.

A spokesperson said: “NHS Highland is aware of the fire on Gruinard Island (an anthrax site de-commissioned following de-contamination in 1990) and is working closely with The Scottish Government and other partner agencies.”

Aultbea resident Nessie Gearing captured the blaze from the Highlands.

Her mother Kate Gearing told STV News that driving up towards the coast was "apocalyptic".

She said: "It was horrible. I’ve never seen anybody on the island, nobody ever goes to it, nobody wants to go on it."

The blaze comes after the service warned of a 'high risk' of wildfires this weekend.

Warm weather, peaking at 17C, over the weekend as well as high-pressure variable winds increases the risk of wildfires taking place.

Accumulated dead grass, leaves, twigs and heather on the ground at this time of year dries quickly in light winds and, when ignited, acts as fuel which can spread wildfires over a wide area.

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