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Dublin: 3°C Monday 1 March 2021

Fire crews tackle gorse fires in Wicklow Mountains as illegal burning of vegetation condemned

The Department of Heritage said: “At a time of so much demand on our emergency services this carry-on is criminal and morally reprehensible.”

FIRE CREWS HAVE been dealing with extensive wildfires sweeping through areas of the Wicklow Mountains in recent days, with the Department of Agriculture issuing an orange forest fire warning to remain in place until Monday.

People are being urged not to light fires in these mountainous areas due to the risk of it spreading rapidly, particularly in light of the strain on emergency services during the current Covid-19 crisis. 

On Wednesday, units of the Wicklow Fire Brigade and a team of rangers from National Parks and Wildlife Service attended the scene of a wildfire at the Wicklow Gap.

Crews were also supported by Coillte fighting extensive fires at Brockagh in Glendasan. 

The Department of Heritage tweeted the matter would be reported to the Department of Agriculture and added: “At a time of so much demand on our emergency services this carry-on is criminal and morally reprehensible.”

In a notification issuing an orange warning – indicating a high fire risk – the Department of Agriculture said: “Based on recent fire incidents, most ignitions risks appear to be associated with illegal burning of upland vegetation, particularly in areas where active turf cutting is taking place.

Arising from current conditions associated with Atlantic high pressure systems a high fire risk is deemed to exist in all areas where hazardous fuels such as dead grasses and shrub fuels such as heather and gorse exist.

It urged people not to the light fires in and around forests or open land, and to telephone 112 to report a fire if they see one.

Yesterday, the Wicklow Fire Service received support from the Irish Air Corps with a helicopter able to “access difficult terrain while extinguishing fires quickly, keeping firefighters safer”. 

The Irish Wildlife Trust said it had written to three of the large farming organisations asking for their support for three measures, including payments for farmers under the Basic Payment Scheme to restore natural habitats. 

It said: “A massive, illegal wildfire has swept through the Wicklow Mountains Special Area of Conservation (SAC) through the evening of 15 April and the early hours of the 16th.

This is just the latest in a series of destructive fires that have become the hallmark of the Irish spring – obliterating nesting birds, insects and natural habitats while releasing vast quantities of smoke and carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
These fires result in incalculable environmental damage and present a real threat to those living nearby or to those who have to tackle the flames through the destruction of property or the inhalation of noxious fumes.

About the author:

Sean Murray

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