AN ARMY major from Beaconsfield competed in a skydiving competition with Russian wildfires raging around the 'drop zone'.

Despite many embassies evacuating their staff and the Government advising people to leave the area, the World Skydiving Championships went ahead last week.

Major Alastair Macartney, 34, was one of the competitors to stay behind and he finished 7th in the competition, which was held in Kolomna near Moscow.

Major Macartney is based at the Defence School of Languages in Wilton Park and was the only British competitor selected for the competition.

He said: "I have a full time job in the Army. To be placed in the top ten against such professional athletes is amazing.

“The fires were raging all around the drop zone... the smoke often reduced visibility to about 30m and everyone was seeking refuge indoors despite the stifling heat.

“If you dared to venture outside you needed a face mask. There was death and destruction and many people lost their homes. The fires came within a few hundred metres of the hotel the athletes were staying in.

“While we could leave if we had to, the locals weren't so lucky and we really sympathised with their plight. My military training helped me to plan escape routes and map potential hazardous areas in case we had to extract quickly."

As well as representing UK at the Championships, Major Macartney was there trying to raise awareness for The Royal British Legion as part of their Extreme Human Flight Team, Jump4Heroes.

At the Defence School of Languages he is learning to speak Pashto before being deploying to Afghanistan next year.

Hundreds of wildfires, sparked by the hottest summer ever recorded in Russia, have engulfed large areas around Moscow and other parts of western Russia.

The death rate in Moscow doubled to 700 people a day, mortuaries were overflowing, flights were disrupted and factories were forced to shut down.

Major Macartney is the Team Leader of Jump4Heroes, The Royal British Legion Extreme Human Flight Team.  Please see