Farmers urged to exercise extreme caution amid fire warning
The current high temperatures and drought conditions present an extreme fire risk. Wildfires not only pose a serious risk to property and the rural environment, they also threaten lives directly and by potentially diverting the resources of our emergency services.
It is important to have appropriate fire-fighting measures in place to help prevent loss or damage through fire.
Fire services and forestry teams around the country have already been stretched in tackling gorse and scrub fires that have seriously damaged forest properties. This is a stark reminder of the dangers that uncontrolled fires pose. It is illegal to burn growing vegetation on uncultivated land between 1 March and 31 August.
It is important to have appropriate fire-fighting measures in place to help prevent loss or damage through fire. These measures include having:
- A risk assessment completed
- Adequate insurance against fire risk
- A current and accurate fire plan in place
- Access routes clear
- Fire breaks maintained along boundaries
- Fire suppression resources at the ready
- Co-operation with neighbours and fire patrols planned where required
Nuala Ni Fhlatharta, Head of the Forestry Development Department said: “We ask famers, forest owners and forest managers to be extremely vigilant in light of the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine’s highest fire risk alert: Condition Red.”
Forest owners, farmers, members of the public and anyone working in or enjoying our countryside are asked to report any suspicious or illegal activity to the Gardaí and to report all fires immediately to the Fire and Emergency Services via 112/999.
The DAFM Forest Fire Danger Rating can be consulted on the forestry section of the Teagasc website. This index provides information on the fire risk and provides a forecast index for the coming days. The website also provides useful guidance on forest insurance and provides advice on the simple, cost-effective measures that forest owners can take to minimise the risk of damage by fires.
- Forest Fire Danger Rating can be consulted here: https://www.teagasc.ie/crops/forestry/forest-fire-risk/
- Forest insurance
Teagasc strongly recommends that forest owners insure their forest crops as the Forest Reconstitution Scheme no longer covers fire or wind damage.
There are a number of effective insurance policies on offer and forest owners should shop around for the most suitable.
Insurance for fire, storm, lightning and other specified perils should be considered. Insurance policies may cover loss of timber value, cost of replanting, fire brigade charges, public liability and employer’s liability.
- Simple, cost-effective measures for forest owners
- FIRE PLAN: Ensure you have a current and accurate fire plan for each forest. Such a fire plan should include a map showing access and assembly points for fire fighting personnel and equipment and potential sources of water. Also include contact details for the emergency services, relevant forest management companies, forest owner groups, neighbouring landowners and forest owners in order to summon help should the need arise. Have fire-fighting tools such as beaters, buckets, knapsack sprayers and pumps to hand and ready to use.
- WORK WITH NEIGHBOURS: Co-operation is vital to achieve successful fire prevention. Explain your concerns regarding fire risk to your neighbours. The shared threat from fire can present an ideal opportunity for forest owners to work together. This is already happening in relation to forest management and harvesting operations. Owners of adjoining and neighbouring plantations can and should develop joint fire plans and share responsibility for guarding against fire.
- BE VIGILANT: Forest owners should be particularly vigilant following dry spells which will occur, despite recent weather patterns. A period of 24-48 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 (see above). Do not rely on others to call the Fire Service.
- CHECK FIRE BREAKS AND ACCESS ROUTES: 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 six metres wide. Also ensure access routes to your plantation are maintained in good order.
- INSURE YOUR CROP: The Forest Service 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. Since 1 June 2009, a Reconstitution of Woodland grant is no longer available for plantations damaged by fire. It is therefore strongly recommended that forest owners assess their plantation and the risks involved. Ensure there is adequate insurance cover, including replanting costs. Re-establishment costs vary depending on the age and species of the forest but are often in the region of €3,000 per hectare. Timber values increase with age and the annual insurance premium will reflect this increasing timber value. Fire brigade call out charges can be substantial and adequate cover for this should be also considered within any insurance policy.
- 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 can advise on reinstatement measures.