Illegal burning: Farmers warned of dangers to land and pocket

A strong warning has been issued to landowners not to carry out any illegal burning of land by Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Michael Creed.

In a statement on the matter, the minister said: “Given the current emergency arising from the Covid-19 pandemic, it is more important than ever that no one should start an illegal fire in the countryside.

“Such activity will cause the unnecessary diversions of emergency service resources. Wildfires put homes and livelihoods at direct risk and cause considerable disruption to rural communities and habitats.

At any time but particularly in the current emergency, such disturbance to rural dwellers, including those who are old and vulnerable, cannot be permitted under any circumstances.

The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine has activated its Fire Danger Rating System.

Minister Creed urged forest owners and managers to check and update fire plans and other relevant contingencies such as insurance, firebreaks, access and water points, helicopter contracts among other items.

The Department is issuing a warning to all landowners in relation to illegal burning, and the serious risks posed to land eligibility and payments under agricultural schemes following illegally set fires.

If farmers burn land between the Sunday, March 1, and Monday, August 31:
  • They risk prosecution, fines and potential imprisonment;
  • Such land will no longer be eligible for payment under the Basic Payment Scheme and other area-based schemes;
  • Inclusion of illegally burnt land in the 2020 Basic Payment Scheme application may result in reduced payment and penalties under this scheme and the other area-based schemes, e.g. Areas of Natural Constraints Scheme;
  • Illegal burning can also render the land of their neighbours ineligible for payment;
  • Where it is identified that lands were burnt during the closed season this may result in such land being inspected by department officials.

The minister added: “This is an unprecedented time in Ireland and everyone must play their part in supporting our emergency services and ensuring they are not needlessly diverted.

“Both farmers and the wider public, whether they are at work or enjoying the countryside, should be mindful of the significant risks of fire at this time of year and be aware of the damage to land and habitats caused by illegal burning.”

Closed season

The National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) of the Department of Culture, Heritage and Gaeltacht also issued a reminder to landowners and the public about the importance of closed season for the setting of fires.

In spring and early summer it is prime season for nesting birds, breeding mammals and the regeneration of growth and habitats after the winter period.

The NPWS confirmed that it will be also be deploying electronic and other surveillance in the vicinity of national parks and reserves.

There has been a very significant increase in the use of outdoor amenities and recreation sites by the public since the onset of Covid-19 measures nationally. There is an increased risk of fire associated with this in upland areas.

There is also a firm link between wildfire ignitions and illegal dumping and burning of domestic waste in many areas, and malicious burning at forest amenity sites and turf bogs open to the public.

The department asks all countryside users to be vigilant, to report any suspicious activity to An Garda Síochána, and to report any uncontrolled or unattended fires immediately to the Fire and Emergency Services via 112/999 service.