Minister warns people to be alert to risk of wildfires

Despite a ban on the burning of vegetation at this time of year, fire services are being kept busy fighting out-of-control gorse fires in mountainous districts.

Minister of State for Agriculture Tom Hayes yesterday issued a warning to forest owners and managers, farmers and members of the public to be alert to the risk of wildfires over the coming weeks.

“In recent years, we have experienced a number of major wildfires that destroyed or damaged property, including farmland and forests,” he said.

“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, he pointed out, 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.

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, on Sunday.

They were called to other fires in the Muckross and Derrycunnihy areas, on Friday evening.

Mr Hayes, meanwhile, said 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, especially near forests and other assets.

He asked landowners, rural dwellers and other land users to maintain a high degree of vigilance.

Suspicious activity should be reported to the gardaí and uncontrolled or unattended fires should be reported immediately to the fire and emergency services, the minister urged.

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