By Digital Desk staff & Vivienne Clarke
The Department of Agriculture has issued a warning about the risk of forest fires this week.
The Status Orange warning, which came into effect at 12pm yesterday, will be in place until 12pm on Friday.
The Department says that the forecasted warm weather, along with high pressure and low humidity levels, means that many areas remain at a high risk of fire.
It warns that areas where "hazardous fuels" such as gorse, heather, dried grasses and other dead vegetation exist are vulnerable.
Western areas are most susceptible to risk, given that temperatures are set to be highest there this week, in addition to low humidity.
Forest owners are warned to prepare for "likely outbreaks of fire" and to have contingency plans in place.
They are advised to be " particularly vigilant" during the high-risk period.
"Fire patrols may be warranted in known fire hotspots," it said.
Coillte’s communications manager Pat Neville has warned the public to “forget the barbeque and the campfire” during the current Orange status warning.
“It is up to all of us to protect forests. They are an important resource and part of our rural and national economy. To see that investment go up in smoke, literally, is heartbreaking,” he told RTE radio’s Morning Ireland.
Most fires don’t start naturally, he said. Unfortunately, they are due to careless, reckless or malicious behaviour.
Lighting a campfire or dropping a lit cigarette can have catastrophic effects, he warned.
The current Orange status means there is a very high risk because of flammable vegetation. This is as a result of a number of factors including the lack of rain, higher temperatures and high winds.
“We are asking the public to be very vigilant.”
Mr Neville pointed out that last year Coillte dealt with 150 forest fires with over 600 hectares damaged.