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Forest fires – what we can do

Steven Meyen, Teagasc Forestry Development Officer has good practical advice on what forest owners and visitors to forests can do, to prevent forest fires and to minimise the threat to their forests from wildfires during the current high risk season.

Wildfires can destroy a farmer’s pension in a few minutes while the impact on the local ecosystem can have long-lasting consequences (Photo above: Teagasc)

Changes in agricultural practice and demographics in upland areas have resulted in less intensive grazing regimes, greater fuel accumulation and increased frequency and severity of wildfire incidence in some parts of Ireland.

Incidents range from small unattended outdoor fires to more serious extensive wildfires involving thousands of hectares of upland vegetation.

When fires destroy forests, they destroy future construction materials, timber exports, economic potential and jobs. They directly threaten the homes and safety of communities and rob those communities of vital emergency service response capabilities.

Wildfires consume more than just forests and bog land. They damage lands, farm infrastructure and grazing capacity. They can destroy valuable but delicate habitats and its flora and fauna.

We are now within the prohibited period for the burning of growing vegetation. It is an offence to burn any vegetation growing on any land not then cultivated from 1 March to 31 August.

We can all do our bit to protect our countryside, our forests and our property. Awareness of the threat from fire, forward planning, co-operation and effective prevention mechanisms are critical elements to achieve this.

At this time of year, forest owners should have workable and practical measures in place to minimise the threat to their forests from wildfires during the current high risk season.

What forest owners can do

    Be aware of the current forest fire warning. The existing condition can be checked here www.teagasc.ie/firerisk. Familiarise yourself with the Fire Danger Rating System.
    A good fire plan should include a clear to-do list when a fire occurs, provide for your own safety, identify escape routes, a map showing access points, assembly points, equipment locations (incl. PPE) and water sources as well as relevant contact details for emergency services, forestry company, forest owner group and neighbours. Have fire-fighting tools such as beaters, buckets, knapsack sprayers and pumps to hand and in good working order.
    Co-operation is vital. Talk to your neighbours and nearby forest owners. Develop joint fire plans and share responsibility for guarding against fire.
    Be vigilant, especially during dry spells as we have now. A period of 24-48 hours is sufficient to dry out dead moorland vegetation. Be particularly vigilant at weekends, and at evening times. If fire is detected, summon help immediately and activate your fire plan. Do not rely on others to call the Fire Service.
    Where fire breaks are required, ensure that they are inspected regularly prior to the fire season and kept vegetation-free. Fire breaks should be at least 6 metres wide. Also ensure access routes to your forest are maintained in good order. If there is a locked forest gate in place, make sure the padlock is well oiled and that the well-marked key can easily be found.
    the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) requires beneficiaries of planting grants and premiums to maintain and protect their forests. This includes an obligation to replant where a forest is damaged by fire. Therefore, make sure to have adequate insurance cover in place. Consider insuring against re-establishment costs, loss of timber values and fire brigade call-out charges.
    If your forest is destroyed or damaged by fire, you should report this to the nearest Garda Station and to the Forestry Division, DAFM.

What visitors can / should do 

  1. Do not park across entrances or impede emergency service access to forest roads
  2. Do not light fires in and around forests or open land
  3. Do not attempt to intervene or fight fires under any circumstances
  4. Gather all family/group members and move to a safe location such as a car park, upwind of the fire
  5. Telephone Fire and Rescue Services via 112 and report the fire and its location
  6. Cooperate with all fire safety requests and Emergency Services instructions

The Teagasc Forestry Department issues an article on a Forestry topic every Friday here on Teagasc Daily  Subscribe to: Forestry e-News Keep up-to-date with the Teagasc Forestry Department here or follow them on Social Media here