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Connick reminds Farmers and Landowners of the risks of Forest Fires

Commenting on the recent spate of forest fires, Mr Seán Connick TD, Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food with responsibility for forestry, today expressed concern at the potential risk to lives and livelihoods arising from such fires.  He said, as he visited fire damaged forests in the vicinity of the Blackstairs Mountains, "Hundreds of hectares of woodland nationally have been lost and it has taken a lot of time and effort to bring the fires under control.  Such fires pose a serious risk to lives and wildlife and result in the loss of significant areas of forestry.  There are a number of steps, previously publicised by my Department, which could be taken to minimise the risk of forest fires and I take this opportunity to remind the general public of those steps".

1) DO NOT LIGHT FIRES IN OR NEAR WOODLAND. Take care with other potential sources of ignition.

2) CHECK FIRE BREAKS. It is the owners' responsibility to ensure that Fire Breaks surrounding plantations are inspected annually prior to the fire season and maintained in an effective, vegetation free condition. Ideally Fire Breaks should be at least 6 metres wide.

3) INSURE YOUR CROP. All forest crops should be insured against losses by fire, which is one of the risks for which cover is available commercially.  Forest owners are reminded that, with effect from 1st June 2009, the Reconstitution Scheme, administered by the Department, does not cover any fire or wind damage occurring after that date.

4) PLAN AHEAD. Fire Plans should be developed for all plantations, including a map showing access and assembly points for fire fighting personnel and equipment and potential sources of water. The plan should also include contact details for the emergency services, relevant forest management organisations, neighbouring landowners and forest owners in order to summon help should the need arise. Have fire-fighting tools such as beaters and knapsack sprayers to hand and ready to use.

5) DISCUSS WITH NEIGHBOURS. Cooperation between neighbouring landowners is vital to successful fire prevention. Explain your concerns regarding fire risk to neighbouring landowners. Owners of adjoining and neighbouring plantations should develop joint fire plans and share responsibility for guarding against fire.

6) BE VIGILANT. Forest Owners should be particularly vigilant following prolonged dry spells. A period of 24 hours is sufficient to dry out dead moorland vegetation following rain, where windy conditions exist. Where dry conditions persist, experience suggests that forest owners should be particularly vigilant at weekends, and at evening times, when land burning is most likely to take place. If fire is detected, do not delay, summon help immediately and activate fire plan. Do not rely on others to call the Fire Service, and remember that a rapid response by the emergency services is essential if damage to property is to be minimised.

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. Your local forestry inspector, forest manager, consultant or Teagasc advisor can advise on reinstatement measures.

Minister of State Connick thanked all of those who had helped to control the forest fires over the last few days, which had occurred throughout the country, including Wexford, Kerry, Clare and Connemara.  He again reminded all landowners that it is an offence under the Wildlife Act to burn growing vegetation between 1 March and 31 August in any year, on any land not then cultivated and pointed out that Single Payment Scheme applicants who burn vegetation within this period could have their payments reduced.

Photo MOS Connick Forest Fires PR 65/10 - 26.04.2010
Left to right Declan Doyle Coillte Forestry Manager, Fergus Moore Divisional Forestry Inspector DAFF and Minister Sean Connick

Date Released: 26 April 2010