Fire Services in many parts of the country were busy over the past number of weeks dealing with forest fires and gores fires as temperatures have risen. This week’s weather in particular resulted in a number of gorse fires which, according to one Senior Assistant Chief Fire Officer is putting firefighters lives ‘potentially at risk‘.
Despite a warning from the Minister of State for Agriculture Tom Hayes to forest owners and managers, farmers and members of the public to be alert to the risk of wildfires over the coming weeks, several fire crews have been busy dealing with gorse, forest and bog fires.
During drier spells, fires can quickly get out of control, destroying property, forestry and wildlife habitats. Heather is burned to promote grazing for sheep, but this can only be done legally between 31 August and 1 March.
Cork City and County Fire Brigades were reported to be busiest over the past week, with a number of protracted gorse fires over a wide area in the West Cork and North Cork areas. It is understood an inter-agency unit which was established in Cork previously to combat the problem might be re-activated this season. The unit involves the gardaí, fire service, Teagasc, Coillte, the National Parks and Wildlife Service along with the Department of Agriculture.
The Minister of State for Agriculture said “In recent years, we have experienced a number of major wildfires that destroyed or damaged property, including farmland and forests. These events endanger people’s homes, place enormous strain on the resources of the emergency services and put the lives of rural dwellers and emergency service personnel at considerable risk.”
Under the Wildlife Acts it is illegal to burn growing vegetation on uncultivated land between March 1 and August 31 and that persons engaged in such illegal activity are liable to prosecution and could face fines, imprisonment and penalties to their Single Farm Payments.
(Photo: Courtesy Padraig Barrett in Cork)
The Kerry and West Cork regions have been among the worst affected in recent years, with thousands of acres, including young forestry, being destroyed. Units of Killarney fire brigade were called to fires in three different locations in the Muckross area, close to Killarney National Park, and to a fire on the Cork road out of Killarney recently. They were also called to other fires in the Muckross and Derrycunnihy areas.
Clare County Fire Service was also busy this week dealing with a variety of gorse fires and bog fires. The worst affected areas were on bog lands between Darragh and Kilmaney, where fire crews from Ennis, Kilrush and Ennistymon battled a major bog fire at Boolynagleragh as recent as yesterday evening.
Meanwhile, fire crews from counties Carlow, Kilkenny and Wexford dealt with a substantial amount of gorse and heather fires over a wide area last week on Mount Leinster, which lies on the three county borders. Fire Chiefs say these fire ‘could potentially put fire-fighters lives at risk’ In separate incidents, Fire brigade Units from Bagenalstown (CW), Bunclody (WX) and Graiguenamanagh (KK) were called out to deal with fires in several locations in the Blackstairs Mountains.
It’s expected that the fire services will be called out to similar fires in the coming weeks.
Carlow County Council’s Senor Assistant Chief Fire Officer Alan O’ Neill said “Tackling these fires carries a significant amount of risk. You have risk to drivers in the area, pollution and toxicity. You have wildlife being endangered. If the fire also gets to the forestry, and firefighters cannot control it, their lives are also being put at risk.”