Dangers underlined as Coillte urges public to avoid outdoor fires

Coillte is reminding members of the public that the Government Covid-19 related restrictions are still in place and that members of the public should stay at home or within 2km of their home.

This is especially important as, due to the prolonged spell of dry weather, there is an increased risk of fire around forest parks and recreational sites.

The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine has issued a national high fire risk rating this week for all areas where hazardous fuels such as dead grasses, and shrub fuels such as heather and gorse exist.

Coillte forest carparks are closed, but the forests remain open for people who live within 2km of them to take brief physical exercise in line with the Government guidelines, the forestry firm said.

Mick Power, Coillte national estates risks manager, commented, stating: “Last week’s gorse fires diverted vital emergency services away from focusing on the Covid-19 pandemic, putting unnecessary pressure on emergency services and placing lives at risk.

“There is a high risk of fires now, particularly in upland areas. This is expected to continue as we experience ongoing dry weather over the spring and summer months.

“As such, Coillte encourages all members of the public to abide by the Government guidelines and stay at home.

“Our forest car parks are closed, but our forests are open for those who live within 2km of them to take brief physical exercise. Those that do so should exercise extreme caution due to the fire warning in place.

The public must also avoid all outdoor use of fires and other open ignition sources such as cigarettes on forest lands. If you spot a fire or smoke please contact your local fire services immediately.

Forest fires pose a serious health and safety risk to the public and to people working in the forest sector, it was noted.

The manager added: “They are very difficult to control and put firefighters and forest personnel at great risk in their efforts to extinguish them.

“It is particularly important that emergency services are not put at additional risk during what is already an incredibly difficult period for all front-line services across the country,” Power concluded.

Landowners are also reminded that under the Wildlife Act, it is illegal to burn growing vegetation on uncultivated land between March 1, and August 31.

Persons engaged in such illegal activity are liable to prosecution and could face fines, imprisonment and penalties to their farm payments.

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