Training campaign launched to reduce forest fire incidents

A series of National Fire Training Days are due to take place around the country over the coming weeks in an effort to reduce forest fire incidents.

The training days make up part of a campaign led by Coillte in association with The Forest Service; the campaign – which was officially launched this morning – is supported by the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed.

As part of efforts to reduce forest fire incidents, the public are being urged to be vigilant and report fires as soon as possible.

Landowners are reminded that burning vegetation on land not yet cultivated between March 1 and August 31 each year is an offence.

Commenting on the campaign, Coillte national estates risk manager Mick Power said: “At the start of spring there is often a lot of dead vegetation accumulated from last year.

“This material can dry out quickly when there are bright sunny days, high temperatures and low humidity levels, which can greatly increase the risk of fire.

“However, with the National Fire Training Days campaign – as well as working with land managers – we are appealing to the public to be vigilant and most importantly to report forest fires in a bid to protect the countryside, its wildlife and residents,” he said.

2017 forest fires

2017 has been described as an exceptional year for forest fires in Ireland, with 85 separate fire events on Coillte property alone – which affected more than 1,700ha of forestry and 2,000ha of bog.

The largest and most dangerous of these incidents was the forest fire at Cloosh Valley, County Galway.

The cost of fighting these fires, as well as the loss of standing timber, was significant and Coillte are still engaged in an ongoing process to evaluate the expenditure required to ensure forest and habitat regeneration, the Department of Agriculture explained.

Continuing, Power said: “This process is very challenging, as significant work is required to remove burnt material and prepare the lands for reforestation.

Most areas will be fully replanted while others may be converted to biodiversity and nature conservation areas with the agreement of the Forest Service.

Those present at the launch of the campaign heard that many rural and remote communities are also hugely impacted by wildfires, which can cause significant environmental and economic damage.

Speaking at the launch of the National Fire Training Days campaign, Minister Creed said: “Livestock, farmland, wildlife, protected woodland and sites of special scientific interest can all be devastated by these fires, as can the lives of people living and working in rural communities.

“However, human behaviour can significantly lower the chance of a wildfire starting; so it’s essential people act safely and responsibly.”

7 steps people can follow to reduce the risk of damage to forestry:
  1. Do not light fires in or near woodland;
  2. Have a fire plan – ensure you have a current fire plan for your forest;
  3. Work with neighbours – co-operation is vital to achieve successful fire prevention;
  4. Be vigilant – forest owners should be particularly vigilant following dry weather;
  5. Check fire breaks and access routes;
  6. Insure your crop;
  7. Report losses – if a plantation is destroyed or damaged by fire, the incident should be reported to the nearest Garda Station and to the Forest Service.

Further National Fire Training Days events are planned for: Avondale, Co. Wicklow on February 28; Woodford, Co. Cork on March 6; and a Sligo date yet to be confirmed.