Bad weekend for ‘illegal’ wild fires across Ireland

The recent dry spell has brought with it a spate of wildfires across the country.

Since Friday last, the Irish Wildlife Trust (IWT) says it has recorded 15 wildfires in Cork, Kerry, Waterford, Galway, Donegal, Louth and Mayo.

It says eight of these were in areas protected for nature conservation – all are illegal as setting fire to vegetation is prohibited between March 1and August 31 each year.

IWT Campaigns Officer, Pádraic Fogarty, says “every year we see the same wildlife wipe-out as hillsides and bogs get torched.

“It’s devastating not only for the natural environment but for the people who live in these areas as their livelihoods and property are put at risk.

Mr. Fogarty called for greater coordination between the Gardaí, the National Parks and Wildlife Service and the Department of Agriculture to clamp down on illegal activity.

Andrew Doyle, Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture recently reminded farmers, forest owners, forest managers and the public of the need to be alert to the risk of wildfires over the coming months, and called for farmers, landowners and anyone enjoying the recreational opportunities of our countryside to behave responsibly and within the law with regard to lighting fires.

Recalling the major wildfires in recent years that destroyed or damaged property, including farmland and forests, he added “Such fires directly endanger people’s homes and property and destroy valuable habitats and tourism resources. Furthermore, they place enormous strain on the emergency services and put the lives of rural dwellers and emergency service personnel at considerable risk”.

Minister Doyle noted that following dry weather patterns, a wildfire risk can quickly develop in all areas where flammable vegetation such as grasses, gorse and heather are present, and concluded by saying “the message is essentially the same each year – I ask landowners, rural dwellers and other land users to maintain a high degree of vigilance regarding fire over the coming months”.

Suspicious activity should be reported to the Gardaí and uncontrolled or unattended fires should be reported immediately to the Fire and Emergency Services.

He also reminded landowners that under the Wildlife Acts, it is illegal to burn growing vegetation on uncultivated land between 1st March and 31st August and that persons engaged in such illegal activity are liable to prosecution and could face fines, imprisonment and penalties to their farm payments.

Further information on fire and fire precautions can be found on the Department’s website under the “Forestry” heading at: http://www.agriculture.gov.ie/forestservice/firemanagement/

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