A carelessly discarded cigarette thrown from a passing vehicle is suspected to have brought chaos after it set fire to a hayfield alongside the A98 Elgin to Fraserburgh road.
Thirty firefighters were involved in a prolonged battle to control the blaze that could be seen for several miles and forced the closure of the road in both directions.
Emergency services were first alerted at around 3pm on Monday and called to the Rathven junction. Crews from four fire stations – Buckie, Portsoy, Fochabers and Elgin – were despatched to the scene where it took over two hours to bring the fire under control.
In command at the scene was Elgin station commander Anna Rogers, who said: “The wind caused the fire to spread very quickly – there is an electrical cable running through the field which complicated matters.
“Our main focus was stopping it from spreading as there are houses at one end of the field and quite a lot of farm machinery at the other.
“We do not know the cause of the fire yet – however, in a period of dry weather like we are having just now I would urge the public to be extra careful about how they get rid of things such as cigarette ends. Please do not throw them out of car windows.”
At the height of the blaze a loader belonging to a local farmer was pressed into service, flattening strips of hay in the field to provide ‘fire breaks’ and prevent the blaze from spreading.
It was the second blaze in 24 hours tackled by crews from the Elgin and Buckie stations – on Sunday evening a derelict building near Lhanbryde was set ablaze with police saying they believed that was started deliberately.