THE long-awaited dry spell may have brought some respite from the winter rains, but it has also prompted Irish officials to issue a warning about the dangers posed by wildfires to natural landscapes, wildlife and even human lives.
The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine has said it wants to remind farmers, forest owners/managers and the public that wildfires have caused extensive damage or destruction during the spring months in recent years.
Last year was among with worst, with graphic images appearing on TV and in newspapers of fire fighters battling gorse and forest blazes in many parts of the island.
The worst-hit county was Kerry, which saw an incredible 700% increase in the number of fires during the first quarter of the year, compared to 2014. Thousands of acres of Killarney National Park were left devastated by a series of accidental and deliberate fires.
Officials are warning that during dry weather patterns, the risk of wildfire can quickly develop in spots where flammable vegetation such as grasses, gorse and heather are present, especially near forests.
“Land owners, rural dwellers and other land users are asked to maintain a high degree of vigilance regarding fire over the coming months,” they say, adding forest owners and managers should check fire plans and ensure that fire-breaks are clear of flammable vegetation and forest access routes are clear of obstructions.
Officials are also reminding landowners that it is “illegal, under the Wildlife Acts, to burn growing vegetation on uncultivated land between March 1 and August 31 and that persons engaged in such illegal activity are liable to prosecution”.
They want people to report any suspicious activity to the authorities, while uncontrolled or unattended blazes should be reported to the fire services.
Finally, it is also worth reminding people that plan on visiting forests and hillsides during the Easter break that care should be taken not to start accidental fires. Only light barbecues in designated areas, dispose of cigarette butts safely and bring all your litter home.