Last year was one of the worst on record for land and forest fires in Ireland. A Working Group, with representatives from a broad spectrum of interested stakeholders, including farmers, the forest industry, the Fire Service, the Gardai, the Defence Forces, Coillte, Teagasc and the National Parks and Wildlife Service, was established by the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, and charged with making recommendations to the Minister, with a view to tackling the problem of illegal and uncontrolled burning.
Minister Connick said “Burning vegetation is extremely dangerous and uncontrolled burning of vegetation poses a grave and unacceptable risk to the lives and livelihoods of farmers and forest owners throughout the country.”
“Spring is generally unsuitable for burning vegetation, due to dry conditions, strong winds and the presence of dead and dry vegetation, especially in upland areas, which makes burning particularly dangerous and poses a real threat to the safety of people, forests and other property. For example, the Coillte estate alone suffered over 1,900 acres of damage during 2010, which is approximately three times the annual average recorded by that organisation”.
The Minister continued “I welcome the 10 Recommendations of the Working Group, which I fully support and which will make the Irish countryside a safer place for all who live in and earn their living from it” He added “In particular, I welcome the main recommendation which will, in the coming days, see my Department commencing an extensive nationwide publicity campaign with the aim of changing the burning methods in traditional agricultural practices to prioritise safety and reduce unnecessary risk.”
The other recommendations cover a wide range of important issues including advising landowners on fire prevention and fire management, greater early detection of illegal burning, and the promotion of Producer Group involvement.
It should be noted that from this year onwards, there will be a concerted multi-agency effort to reduce, as much as possible, the threat posed by uncontrolled burning. This will see a greater focus on uncontrolled land burning through strengthened cross-reporting arrangements and enforcement. This, in turn, will reduce the risk involved particularly in the fire danger period from February to May.
In brief, the 10 recommendations are:
- Change the mindset regarding the use of fire in traditional agricultural practices
- Advise landowners on Fire Prevention and Forest Management
- Early Detection
- Penalise and/or prosecute offenders
- Develop an Interagency Statement in relation to land and forest fires
- Advise landowners of their obligation to notify their intention to burn to Fire Services and the Garda Siochana
- Promote Producer Group involvement
- Collate data for land and forest fires
- Produce a Code for Controlled Burning
- Investigate research opportunities
For more detailed information on each of these recommendations click here.