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Dublin: 16 °C Friday 7 August, 2020
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Drones to be deployed to assist firefighters tackling forest fires over coming months

It’s the second year drones will be used to monitor designated ‘hot spots’ across regions of Dublin, Wicklow and the Midlands.

Firefighters were dispatched to this gorse fire in Howth last month.
Firefighters were dispatched to this gorse fire in Howth last month.

THE NATIONAL PARKS and Wildlife Service, along with Coillte, are to roll out a drone operation over the summer months to monitor and fight forest fires. 

It is the second year the technology will be used to monitor designated ‘hot spots’ across regions of Dublin, Wicklow and the Midlands.

The drones will be equipped with cameras that peer through smoke, as well as sensors for wind direction and other weather variables that affect how fires spread.

They can then capture continuous footage of areas deemed as high risk and spot small fires that otherwise could not have been detected until they had become much larger and harder to contain.

Only last month, fire crews were dispatched to gorse fires which swept through the Wicklow mountains.

During summer months, gorse fires become even more common, due to warmer weather, drier land, and the increase of human activity.

The Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht at the time suggested the fire was a result of illegal burning of rubbish and other materials. 

“As well as having severe localised impact on flora and fauna, setting fires during this time of a national public health emergency is particularly reckless as it places unnecessary additional pressures on our emergency services whose services are critical to managing the Covid-19 pandemic,” Minister Josepha Madigan said. 

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Deborah Meghen, director of stewardship, risk and advocacy at semi-state forestry company, Coillte, said the use of drones has helped to reduce the number of fires in recent years. 

“Last year we used this technology for forest fire protection, which resulted in a significant reduction in forest fires with just over 50 reported, down from 150 in 2018,” she said.

“This represents a very good year in terms of forest damage with only 25 hectares affected, compared with over 600 hectares damaged in 2018.” 

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