News Q&A: Condition Orange high fire risk announced for land burning

In response to a recent spate of uncontrolled burning incidents in Cos Cork and Kerry, the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine has repeated warnings to farmers and other landowners that land burning remains unlawful between March 1 and August 31.

News Q&A: Condition Orange high fire risk announced for land burning

The Department said land found to have been burned outside of the legal season can be considered ineligible for payment under the Basic Payment Scheme, GLAS and other area based schemes.

Satellite based detection and assessment of recently affected areas is now underway.

Further inspections may be conducted on lands where fire incidents have been detected since March 1.

According to the Department, uncontrolled burning threatens to neighbour’s homes, livelihoods and critical infrastructure in rural areas, and affects the safety and wellbeing of elderly and infirm people.

Diversion of emergency services can have grave consequences if they are required for more life threatening incidents elsewhere.

Persons engaged in burning growing vegetation on uncultivated land between March 1 and August 31 are liable to prosecution.

The Heritage Bill 2016 gives power to the minister to allow for controlled burning in certain areas, to be specified by the minister, during March, and it allows for managed hedge cutting, under strict criteria, during August. However, existing rules remain in place until the passage of this Bill through the Oireachtas.

A number of major wildfires have occurred in recent years which destroyed or damaged property, including farmland and forests.

A Condition Orange high fire risk has been announced.

What should forest owners and managers do?

Prepare for likely outbreaks of fire.

Fire lines, fire plans, and fire suppression equipment should be reviewed and made ready and other relevant contingencies such as insurance, helicopter contracts etc, checked and confirmed.

Fire patrols are advised in known fire hotspots.

Assess your property for fire risk and mitigation factors.

Is there a risk of fire or presence of hazardous fuel vegetation on neighbouring lands?

Is there a history of land burning in the vicinity of your forest?

Are access routes adequate, accessible and clear of obstructions?

Is there a firebreak in place and has it been adequately maintained? Fire breaks should be at least six metres wide and should be maintained clear of flammable vegetation.

Fire plans should be developed for all forests, including maps showing access routes and assembly points for fire fighting personnel and equipment and potential sources of water.

Have fire-fighting tools such as beaters and knapsack sprayers to hand and ready to use.

If you do not live in reasonable proximity to your woodland, a local caretaker or forest neighbour should be employed.

Clear tracks and roads, if available, and ensure forest entrances and access routes are not blocked by parked vehicles or other obstacles, especially where visitors or recreational users may be present. Suitable signage to this effect should be displayed on gates or barriers.

When is the risk highest?

Be particularly vigilant at Bank Holiday weekends where high risk weather is forecast.

Co-operation between neighbouring landowners is critical to successful fire prevention.

Forest owners should also co-operate with fire planning, and share the burden of fire patrols and vigilance during high risk periods.

What is the advice when a fire breaks out?

Report fires immediately to the fire and emergency services.

Do not wait for somebody else to make the call. Dial 999 or 112.

You will not be billed by the fire service or local authority for making the call.

Give clear details as regards location, where possible using a national grid reference and any other useful information such as the size of the fire, wind direction, proximity to dwellings or forestry etc.

Do not attempt to tackle fires alone or without adequate training or protective equipment.

What if forest fire damage occurs?

If your forest is damaged or destroyed, report this loss as soon as possible to your local Gardai station and to the Forest Service, Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Johnstown Castle Estate, Co Wexford.

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