Electronic surveillance being used to stamp out illegal fires

Electronic surveillance and other methods of detection have been deployed near national parks and reserves in a bid to stamp out illegal fires.
Electronic surveillance being used to stamp out illegal fires
'5 mins of dry weather and they’re off...Face with rolling eyes Bantry and Schull crews currently dealing with gorse fire tonight' Photo via: @corkcountyfire

Electronic surveillance and other methods of detection have been deployed near national parks and reserves in a bid to stamp out illegal fires.

The news emerged last night as the Agriculture Minister issued a strong warning to landowners against such burning activity during the closed season which he said causes unnecessary diversion of emergency service resources.

Under the Wildlife Act, it is illegal to use burning to control vegetation between March 1 and September 1.

Michael Creed’’s warning follows two gorse fires in West Cork - one near Macroom, one near Bantry - in the space of a few hours on Thursday night.

The cause of the blazes is not yet known.

Mr Creed said wildfires put homes and livelihoods at direct risk and cause considerable disruption to rural communities and habitats.

"At any time but particularly in the current emergency, such disturbance to rural dwellers, including those who are old and vulnerable, cannot be permitted under any circumstances," he said.

The Mayor of Cork County, Cllr Ian Doyle, also appealed to people to respect the law and act responsibly.

“Now, more than ever, we need to consider how our actions affect our own wellbeing, that of the community, and the nation," he said.

The lives of property owners, people on the land and our frontline emergency personnel, who are already under pressure, are endangered by illegal fires.

"Now is the time for solidarity and observance of the law and of guidelines set out by the HSE.

"We all need to do everything we can to allow our emergency services to respond to the situation at hand.”

In 2017, a spate of forest fires across the country between April and May destroyed hundreds of hectares of productive commercial forestry, causing the worst damage to Coillte’s estate since 2011.

West Cork was badly affected, with one massive blaze devastating hundreds of acres of scrubland around Gougane Barra.

While a combination of dry and windy weather during that time increased the risk of gorse and forestry fire, deliberate fire setting was a significant factor in the cause of many of the fires on Coillte property.

Volunteers, firefighters and members of the Air Corps devoted vast resources and put themselves at significant risk to combat the fires.

The bill for tackling the fires, combined with the loss of productive timber and the cost of replanting the affected areas, ran to several million euro.

But as well as the damage caused to commercial forestry, these fires pose a significant risk to homes, farmland, native woodland, and areas of wildlife habitat, much of which is designated for nature conservation.

With weather forecasters predicting a spell of dry weather over the coming days, the authorities have appealed to people to be extra vigilant about the dangers of wildfire and to act safely and responsibly in rural environments.

Cork County Council’’s fire service dealt with 114 illegal fires in West Cork in 2015, with 127 in 2016 and 110 in 2017.

The figures are down for the last two years.

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