Just eight prosecutions have been taken in the last decade for illegal burning of vegetation in Munster, it has emerged, as emergency services fought several wildfires this weekend, including one close to an explosives plant.
Irish Air Corps and Coillte helicopters were involved in a major aerial fire fighting operation in Clonagh, near Enfield on the Kildare-Meath border, after fire on bogland spread to forestry in Hortland, close to the Irish Industrial Explosives plant.
As a “condition red — extreme fire risk” warning remains in effect, emergency services were also tackling a forest fire in Enniscrone and another large fire close to forestry in Laois which appears to have been started by illegal waste burning.
Under the Wildlife Act, it is illegal to set controlled fires in an attempt to clear scrub or vegetation from March 1 to September 1.
But a number of large gorse fires in Cork and Kerry in recent weeks prompted several cease and desist warnings to landowners in relation to controlled fires.
It has now emerged that the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht has taken just eight prosecutions for illegal burning of vegetation in counties Clare, Cork and Kerry since 2010.
“Fines have ranged from €50 to €600 with in some cases defendants also paying the prosecution legal costs,” a spokesperson said.
“The department also liaises with the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) on cross-compliance issues.
“It is the department’s understanding that where there is sufficient evidence to indicate that lands have been illegally burned, DAFM will withhold payments. This sends out an important message.”
Meanwhile, the department has announced an expansion of the use of drone technology to help combat the spread of forest and hill fires during this high-risk period.
The drones are equipped with cameras that can see through smoke, and with sensors to detect wind direction and other weather variables that affect fires.