Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Martin Heydon, has praised the quick response from farmers in tackling fires on farmland last week.

Speaking to Agriland at the Tullamore Show yesterday (Sunday, August 14), Minister Heydon said that people only have to look at what happened in Ferns, Co. Wexford in the last week to witness the really swift actions of farmers.

The minister added that the risk of fire for farmers was increased due to the extended period of dry and hot weather in the last week.

“It’s a new risk because of the extremely dry weather and the fact this is a later heatwave than we would normally have and it comes right in the middle of the harvest time,” he said.

“Speaking to friends in Ferns, I know how they all came together to till the ground, to move bales and to cut off access to the hedgerows to contain it to the 30ac that burnt.”

The minister added that farmers know the risks that are there now and they understand that a spark from a machine can easily cause a fire.

“It comes back to all elements of farm safety: Thinking about the task beforehand, identifying the risk or hazard and trying to mitigate it or take it out altogether if you can. If you can’t take away the risk, reduce it.

“If that means having a water tanker nearby; making sure that you have a fire extinguisher to stop that small blaze – that’s the type of practical step you can take that means a small problem doesn’t become a bigger one.”

Minister Heydon also revealed that an Irish farmer is seven times more likely to die in a workplace incident than any of the 2 million workers in Ireland.

“That is a startling statistic and while we have seen a halving of the national average over the last 10 years last year, the seven fatalities we have had this year is still seven too many,” he said.

“These aren’t statistics, these aren’t numbers, these are real people.”