Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue T.D has issued a warning to landowners and members of the public not to carry out any illegal burning of land during spring and summer.
Minister McConalogue said “In recent days, we have witnessed uncontrolled burning events in various parts of the country, which not only puts lives and property at risk, but also has a massive environmental impact and it damages the lands due to the uncontrolled nature of these fires.”
“Given the inherent fire risk in spring, it is important that no one should start an illegal fire in the countryside and give rise to unnecessary diversions of vital emergency service resources. Late spring wildfires can put homes and livelihoods at direct risk and cause considerable disruption to rural communities, wildlife and habitats. We have seen this unfold for real in our rural communities in recent years.
The farming community has a central role to play in the control of fire in our landscapes through the management of land. Reduction and maintenance of high-risk vegetation (such purple moor grass, heather, and gorse/whin) in high fire risk areas is critical to managing this risk. Some of these key preventative actions in known high risk areas are directly supported and demonstrated through the network of EIP projects funded by my Department. We are asking for the cooperation of all countryside users in the prevention of wildfires and to join in the protection of these lands over the coming months.”
The Department has now activated its Fire Danger Rating System for the season and the Minister advises that forest owners and managers should check and update fire plans and other relevant contingencies such as insurance, access, water points, and private helicopter contracts etc., so as to be prepared well in advance of high fire risk phases.
Rural dwellers should also assess wildfire risks to their properties and prepare accordingly. Dangerous flammable vegetation immediately around homes and other assets in high-risk areas should be removed.
There has been a very significant increase in the use of outdoor amenities and forest recreation sites by the public in recent years which the Department says is to be welcomed. Forest visitors are reminded to behave responsibly, to observe relevant local bye-laws and to park considerately so as not to impede access of emergency vehicles to incidents.
There is a very firm link in recent years 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 Siochana, and to report any uncontrolled or unattended fires immediately to the Fire and Emergency Services via 112/999 service.
If you burn land between the 01 March and 31 August:
- You risk prosecution, fines and potential imprisonment
- Such land will no longer be eligible for payment under the Basic Income Support for Sustainability scheme and other area-based schemes.
- Inclusion of illegally burnt land in the 2023 Basic Income Support for Sustainability 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 your neighbour’s 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
- Additional restrictions and consent requirements may apply where activities have the potential to damage a Special Area of Conservation (SAC), A special Protection Area (SPA) or a Natural Heritage Area. Where a landowner is uncertain about their legal obligations in these matters, they should consult their local NPWS Conservation Ranger beforehand.
Furthermore, if you burn land in an uncontrolled manner between 01 September and 28 February DAFM will also consider the lands ineligible for payment.
The Minister stated “Wildfire is an easily preventable threat to our hills, bogs and habitats. Everyone must play their part in supporting our emergency services and ensuring they are not needlessly diverted. Both landowners 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.”