Department: ‘Those found starting gorse fires are liable to prosecution by the Gardai’

As efforts continue to battle the forest fire raging through Cloosh Valley, Co. Galway, the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine issued a statement regarding the illegality of starting gorse fires.

The statement, on behalf of Minister for Agriculture, Food and Marine, Michael Creed, and Minister for Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural & Gaeltacht Affairs, Heather Humphreys, reminds landowners and the public that it is an offence to burn, from March 1 to August 31, any vegetation growing on any land not then cultivated.

Individuals who are found to burn vegetation within the prohibited period are liable to prosecution by An Garda Siochana or by the National Parks and Wildlife Service.

Commenting on the recent incidence of gorse fires throughout the country, Minister Humphreys said: “Deliberate or uncontrolled fires can destroy habitats, wildlife, farm land and farm structures and can threaten homes and lives.

“There is a huge cost to this reckless behaviour not just to physical property, but also the cost of disruption to normal emergency services operations.”

Civilian and Irish Air Corps helicopters were reported to have been carrying out water drops since 5.30am this morning. Army personnel have been mobilised to assist in brashing, with the focus to control the fires on a number of fronts, particularly that in close proximity to the 169MW Galway Wind Park construction site.

A regional emergency response operation, in place as of yesterday, is hoping to bring the blaze at Cloosh Valley under control. High winds and warm temperatures combined to spread the fire outside of Coillte-owned land yesterday.

The fire in the Connemara region currently comprises three separate fronts, the longest of which stretches 8km. In total, approximately 1,500ha of forestry and 2,000ha of bogland has been destroyed.

The defence forces and emergency services continue to assist Coillte in combating the blaze. A helicopter from the Air Corps joined the effort yesterday.

Also Read: Air Corps called in to battle gorse fires in the west of Ireland

While the cause of the fire at Cloosh Valley has yet to be established, Coillte believes that the fire was triggered by deliberately-set gorse fires, which subsequently spread onto its land.