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Minister Wallace warns of forest fire risks

As a result of the current fine weather conditions, Mary Wallace TD, Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture and Food with responsibility for forestry, is warning landowners and the general public to be highly vigilant where the risk of wildfire is concerned, particularly near moorland and woodland areas. The current heatwave has created ideal conditions for wildfires to spread in risk areas, and an extreme risk of fire already exists on some types of land.

The risk of fire is not only restricted to moorland and forests but also to other areas of long grass and dry vegetation. The obvious risks are from unlawful burning of vegetation and rubbish, careless use of disposable barbeques, discarded cigarette butts etc. Fires can so easily be started by neglect or accident, even something as simple as leaving glass or metal in the sun, and a simple act of carelessness can have devastating results to a moorland or wood. Under certain circumstances, some types of farm machinery may also present a risk of ignition, due to hot exhaust parts coming into contact with dry vegetation, and farm machinery operators are therefore asked to be highly vigilant while working during the hot spell.

Landowners and the general public are asked to behave responsibly, and help reduce the threat posed by wildfire and the strain on fire fighting resources having to deal with such outbreaks.

Landowners are further reminded that it is an offence to burn vegetation within one mile of woodland, and that it is unlawful to burn vegetation between 1st March and 31st August. Where such offences are detected this may constitute a breach of Single Farm Payment cross compliance rules, and heavy penalties may be imposed on landowners breaching these conditions. In addition, the general public is asked to refrain from lighting fires or barbeques in forest areas, or in other areas where a risk of wildfire outbreaks may exist.

If fire is detected, do not delay, summon help immediately, call the Fire Service. Do not rely on others to call the Fire Service, and remember that a rapid response by the emergency services is essential if risk to life and damage to property is to be minimised.

The Minister of State hopes that the current weather conditions will permit and encourage the maximum enjoyment by all of Ireland's beautiful countryside, but urges forest owners and the public alike to behave responsibly, be vigilant, and help stamp out forest fires.

20 July, 2006

Date Released: 20 July 2006