Over €6m spent tackling gorse fires

From 2010 to 2015, the cost to the State of tackling nearly 7,000 gorse, forest, and bog fires was over €6m.

The most up-to-date statistics is for 2015, according to the Department of Housing.

Last week, after the Cloosh Valley gorse fire in Co Galway ravaged 1,200 hectares of forest land, Coillte CEO Fergal Leamy estimated that the recovery costs would amount to a further €4m.

BirdWatch Ireland has said these “damaging fires happen every year and little is being done to prevent them”. The biodiversity body said the fires are not only costly to wildlife but the Exchequer as well.

A Freedom of Information request by BidWatch Ireland to all local authorities threw up in data from 10 counties, showing that the cost of deploying fire services to tackle 6,743 gorse, forest, and bog fires in these counties between 2010 and 2015, amounted to more than €6m.

Kerry had the most fires, with 1,458 incidences, even though data only related to the period from 2013 to 2015.

The cost to the State was €637,265, with money going on wages and PRSI payments.

Cork had the second highest number of fires (1,257), although data here related to the period between 2010 and 2015.

The cost to the exchequer came to €1,758,518, with money going solely towards wages.

Co Mayo had the third highest number of fires with 1,208 being fought between the years 2010 and 2015, at a cost of €2,015,339.

However, BirdWatch Ireland said that other costs are harder to quantify.

“Other costs, which are harder to quantify in monetary terms, include those to our birds, habitats and other biodiversity,” it said. “Birds’ nests, eggs and chicks are the main casualties. In most cases, the parents can fly away but might not breed again this season and will often find themselves with no suitable nesting territory.”

Other costs, particularly of the recent fire in Galway, is the injection of massive amounts of smoke pollution into the air.

The Citizen Science Air Pollution monitoring network in the county recorded smoke pollution hitting at least 20 times the normal level last week.


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