Gorse fires can spread very quickly
The Department of Agriculture has issued a status orange fire warning in relation to wildfires.
With very dry weather of late, the ground is drier than normal and there is a real danger of gorse fires.
A number of major fires have broken out in the Wicklow area in recent days and there is concern that areas of upland in Roscommon, Leitrim, Longford and Cavan could also be at risk.
In a Condition Orange warning published on Thursday, the Department said that there was a heightened risk "in all areas where hazardous fuels such as dead grasses and shrub fuels such as heather and gorse exist."
The warning will remain in place until midday on Monday, April 20.
In relation to the Wicklow incidents, the Department said: "Based on recent fire incidents, most ignition risks appear to be associated with illegal burning of upland vegetation, particularly in areas where active turf cutting is taking place.”
Additionally, the warning noted that anyone visiting forests or recreational sites should be mindful of social distancing laws restricting non-essential journeys to within a 2km radius of one's home.
The Department has shared advice for the public at large on how to avoid danger from fires.
- Do not light fires in and around forests or open land.
- Do not attempt to intervene or fight fires under any circumstances.
- Gather all family/group members and move to a safe fuel-free location such as a car park, upwind of the fire.
- Telephone Fire and Rescue Services via 112 and report the fire and its location.
- Evacuate if instructed to do so, and cooperate with all Emergency Service instructions.
Meanwhile, householders or building owners in areas susceptible to wildfire are advised to remove or cut back any vegetation in the immediate vicinity of their house, building or oil tank to prevent wildfires damaging or destroying their property.
Landowners and members of the public are reminded that under the Wildlife Act 1976 and the Wildlife (Amendment) Act 2000 it is an offence to cut, grub, burn or otherwise destroy any vegetation growing on any land not then cultivated between March 1 and August 31 in any year.
Meanwhile, Head of the Teagasc Forestry Development Department, Nuala Ni Fhlatharta has urged all landowners to be aware of the fire danger notice.
She reminded landowners that they cannot burn at this time of the year, and highlighted the risk to forestry.
It is important for landowners (including farmers) to know that it is illegal to cut, grub, burn or otherwise destroy any vegetation growing on any land not then cultivated between 1st March and 31st August in any year, under the Wildlife Act 1976 & the Wildlife (Amendment) Act 2000.
In addition, The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed T.D. has recently warned farmers that they must not burn land at this time of year and doing so may have serious consequences for farm payments.
- Burnt land is not eligible for payment under the Basic Payment Scheme and other area-based schemes;
- Inclusion of illegally burnt land in the 2020 Basic Payment Scheme application may result in reduced payment and penalties under this scheme and the other area-based schemes, e.g. Areas of Natural Constraints Scheme;
- Illegal burning can also render the land of your neighbours ineligible for payment;
- Where it is identified that lands were burned during the closed season this may result in on-farm inspection of such land in due course.
In these unprecedented Covid-19 circumstances that we find ourselves in, everyone needs to be conscious that illegal burning at this time robs our communities of vital emergency service response capabilities.
John Casey, Teagasc Forestry advisor said: “On a personal level for landowners, the uncontrolled burning of land consumes more than just forests and bogland. They can damage lands, farm infrastructures and contribute to the long term decline in the grazing potential of farmland. These fires also threaten the safety of our most delicate ecosystems and habitats, and the flora and fauna that live in them.”